I was shocked but not surprised by last week’s storming of the Capitol. Readers of history know demagogues use lies to inflame the masses. Students of politics know cynical leaders make Faustian bargains to advance their agendas. Victims of racism know White supremacists exploit their power to disenfranchise voters of color. Anyone on social media knew the rioters were planning an attack. So, if you were surprised, you weren’t paying attention.
The absence of surprise doesn’t mitigate the shock we felt as marauders battered the Capitol’s doors and windows, roamed the building wearing animal furs and sweatshirts extolling Auschwitz, waved Confederate flags, vandalized offices, stole furniture, posed for selfies, and smeared their blood, urine and feces throughout the halls of Congress. The lack of surprise also doesn’t mitigate the shock we felt as elected officials sought to overturn a free and fair election—even after the attack was quelled—nor does it mitigate the shock we felt as most of the rioters were allowed to get away.
As physicians, we cannot witness this fiasco without worrying about our patients, because we depend on a stable, functional, democratically-elected government to support our work. We need government to fund science; we need government to deliver healthcare; and we need government to fight poverty, racism, poor education, global warming, pollution, isolation, loneliness, drug addiction, and crime- all of which undermine the health of our patients.
We must not let Wednesday’s debacle distract us from our mission, nor allow it to enshroud the countless reasons we have to be hopeful. Our medical community is a shining example of all that our country can be. Just look at how we united to fight COVID-19, harnessing the power of knowledge, honesty, curiosity, and compassion to achieve our goals. In this time of division, we should point to the example of our own community, where we debate honestly, settle disagreements respectfully, and embrace diversity of thought. Our success should serve as a source of inspiration to a country that seems hopelessly fractured.
So, yes, even if we weren’t surprised by last week’s day of infamy, we must not let the shocking events overwhelm us. Instead, let’s embrace the hope that radiates from the intelligence, resilience, and determination we witness each day in this beloved community, because people like you will lead our nation and our patients to a brighter future.
Have a restful Sunday, everyone,
For further reading:
- The American Abyss
- The Myth of American Innocence
- Scenes From an American Insurrection
- The Far Right Told Us What It Had Planned. We Didn’t Listen.