Editorial: Stay calm, but never forget this disgraceful day

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Douglas County and the surrounding area hold a very important place in American history. This is the place where beliefs turned to blood.

It was the period leading up to the Civil War — a period known as Bleeding Kansas — where incredible tensions over slavery and state’s rights boiled to the point where men began killing men over their beliefs. Soon enough, it would get worse.

And then, with the passage of time, it largely would be forgotten. Not the Civil War, of course, but rather the idea that beliefs turn to blood.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, Americans and the world watched a disgraceful scene that should force us to remember a painful past and confront a perilous present. A mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and created destruction, disruption and anarchy as the U.S. Congress was going about its business to produce a peaceful transfer of power.

As of this writing, the events at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday are nowhere near analogous to the Civil War. As shocking and as sorrowful as those scenes were, they could be so much worse. What would be worse is that if a man who won the presidency by 7 million popular votes, 74 electoral votes, and had his victory vetted by more than 60 lawsuits — some adjudicated by appointees of the plaintiff — was denied the presidency. What happens in the streets on that day looks much, much worse.

But reasonable Americans — and God willing they are still the majority in this country — should not fear that day will come. While the shrine of democracy in the world was battered on Wednesday, America’s foundation is intact. American courts and their judges have made it clear they will not do Donald Trump’s bidding. The U.S. military will not take any action to help Trump stay in power one second longer than the end of his lawful term. And yes, while its formation was ugly and shameful in its timing, a core of lawmakers in both parties has emerged who will not tolerate this Trump transgression. Joe Biden will be president on Jan. 20.

In the meantime, we should all pray and hope that this remains a small insurrection but becomes a big reminder. We must use this disgraceful day to remember that beliefs still can turn to blood, even in America.

Let the images of this day burn a bit. Never forget that the president-elect was the first to speak to the American people and meaningfully plead for calmer heads and to exhort Americans to live up to the great people that we are. President-elect Biden did that while Trump fiddled on Twitter and had not the courage to walk down the hall and stand in front of the video camera in the presidential briefing room that can beam a message to the world at a moment’s notice. Never forget the cowardice of that man.

And in the days to come, never forget the answers that we must demand from those lawmakers — including members of the Kansas delegation — who believed it was a good idea to challenge electoral votes that already had passed every test of the U.S. justice system. Their answers must be better than they were trying to make some point about the election system or standards or some other such matter. Their methods for making such a point were unconscionable. They were like making a point about the potency of rat poison by putting it in your spouse’s breakfast.

So let those images of today burn and sear, but do not let them ignite you with rage. This is particularly important in Lawrence, where more than 160 years after Bleeding Kansas, beliefs still run hot. We are a community that largely rejected Trump’s fitness long ago. In the coming days and weeks, you may see Trump signs or flags among your neighbors or fellow residents. You may hear inane comments that try to justify what happened on Wednesday.

Do your level best to resist becoming what you despise. Don’t rip up that Trump sign, don’t burn that flag, don’t swing at the inanity. To do so puts you on a path to extremism, which is a destination far too many Americans already have arrived at. Among the reminders this day should always invoke is that America needs no more extremists.

Instead, take comfort in knowing that America’s system of democracy will prevail on Jan. 20, and take a vow to never forget this day so that we never live it again.


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