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  • Reverend James Squire


Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Photo by Ajay Parthasarathy

I had the privilege of being the Chaplain of the Episcopal Academy for 38 years. During that time, I experienced the agony and ecstasy of what it means to be the spiritual leader of a large community. There were occasions when I went to bed in the evening and had a nightmare only to awake the next morning to learn that it was not something in a dream state but a reality that needed to be addressed and acted on by me.

I am writing this the day after the insurrection at the Capitol incited by President Trump. As was true in the past, when I went to bed last night to sleep, I was fooled in my sleep to think that the events of yesterday were a nightmare from which I would awake. However, it was a real nightmare for our nation. As I lay there this morning, I thought of other tragedies that were part of my life. I thought as well of some of the nightmares that our school community experienced, and I thought of my former students who made their way to our service academies or directly to our armed forces to guarantee that our democracy would be a light to other nations. I thought of one of my former students who emailed me as he was landing in a violent city in the Middle East as a soldier not in uniform who was scared because there was a high probability that he would not return from his secret work. All working to preserve our freedom and liberty. All working to support our democracy.

I thought about how our school community always remembered 9/11, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day during chapel services. I then remembered the images of what occurred on January 6. Then I thought of Trump, his smirk, his bone spurs, his cowardice, his lies, and his failure as a leader.

There has been much commentary on television and in the press. I have been reflecting as well on how we arrived at this day of infamy.

I wondered why 70 million Americans voted for him. That fact has been one of the arguments of his enablers. Recall an earlier post where I wrote about choices people make when they must choose between integrity and economic security. They will often choose economic security over issues of integrity. In a recent exit poll, people were asked why they voted for Trump. They stated that they didn’t like his behavior but thought that he would be the best person to help the economy.

Yesterday the enablers in the House and Senate said that their constituents did not believe the election was fair. Recall that months earlier, Trump was sowing the seed of this reaction by stating that “If I lost, the election must be rigged.” I wrote a post about lying. I used the thinking of Sissela Bok who is an ethicist and expert on lying. She conducted a study where she came to a conclusion that we have seen in action in our nation since the election on November 3. If you repeat a lie often enough people will come to believe it and be certain that it is the truth. The repetition of the lie and conspiracy theories cause people to think that “there must be something to it”. Instead of the enablers focusing on their constant lies made to people, they have focused on the fact their constituents have concerns about an election. Their lies are the origin of the concerns. They should be ashamed. I am glad that Simon and Schuster has refused to publish Hawley’s book.

The question has been raised about inadequate police protection of the Capitol compared to the police presence at the Black Lives Matter protests when Trump took his walk to the church for his photo shoot holding the Bible upside down. There was more advanced notice that January 6 would be violent, online and otherwise. Why no protection? The answer is racism. Black people pillage and riot, white people do not. That has been a message back to Jim Crow America. Wrong. It was difficult to watch the police take selfies with the mob and to watch them literally hold the doors for the rioters as they entered the Capitol. Trump added to this surreal event by finally saying, “Go home.” Those were the two wrong words. What about his favorite line to “Lock them up!”. The proof is in the numbers. Few of the white people in the riot were arrested compared to the hundreds during the Black Lives Matter protest.

I have learned in my training in family therapy that the same dysfunctional dynamic in families occurred on January 6 in the insurrection. I have been involved in many situations where parents will ask for help with their incorrigible child. The bad behavior can include violence by the child. I do meet with the young person, but the parents are usually surprised that I want to meet with them and talk about their relationship with each other and the other family members.

They want to focus on the bad behavior of the child. The child/adolescent becomes the “identified patient”. So far there has been a lot of focus on the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol and security lapses. Let’s punish those who we can identify for their bad behavior. But they are like the identified patient. The real problem is the parent or parental interactions in this case that includes people different from a father and mother. In the case of January 6, 2021, we need to include different parental influences. It is Trump, his family members, Giuliani, politicians interested in running for office with Trump’s base behind them, fund raising for their future, as well as various media who have empowered him and others and perpetuated his lies and bad behavior. We need to welcome these bad actors into the real world of moral response and responsibility.

The only way to “fix” this identified patient of the mob is to curtail the dysfunction of Trump and his enablers. Their legacies are now fixed by history. I hope that this becomes a cautionary tale for others. Look carefully for those who are partisans and only want a way to continue in office. Think Lindsey Graham. Look for the patriots who put nation over all considerations including their own political future. Think of John Lewis and John McCain.

Our country needs to woke which means to alert to injustice in society, especially racism. Woke sounds like awake. It is the only way to prevent this kind of nightmare.

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