WISCONSIN INTERFAITH VOTER ENGAGEMENT CAMPAIGN STATEMENT ON THE INSURRECTION AT THE CAPITOL
Shock, Grief, Horror, Fear, Disgust, Anger, Anxiety – we have felt all this and more in the last few days. Our country will never be the same. On Wednesday, armed insurrectionists surged into the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn by force the lawful election of Nov. 3. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives during the attack on the Capitol. We support every American’s right to peaceful protest. However, this was not a protest, but a violent and dangerous attack on our democracy. Its perpetrators, from the top down, must be held accountable and brought to justice.
We cannot help but note the stark contrast between the response of police to this gang of White vigilantes and how police have responded to Black Americans protesting racism. After the murder of George Floyd last summer, the streets of Washington DC were filled with police in riot gear and peaceful protestors were greeted with smoke bombs and pepper spray. On Wednesday, the Capitol police were lightly scattered around the Capitol and neither the DC police nor the National Guard were called until after the building had already been breached.
We can take comfort in the fact that those who tried to seize our Capitol and defeat democracy have failed. Democracy survives: Congress reconvened after the Capitol was secured and, at 3:41am Thursday, formally declared Joseph Biden the winner of the presidential election.
We fervently hope that the events of Wednesday will prove to be a wake-up call for our nation and that the new administration will help the country heal from the last four years. It is clear that we cannot go back to business as usual but need to start fresh and look at what needs to change in our country for the good of all. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King jr. said in his final speech before his assassination: “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation”.
All of you who have participated in the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Campaign have been part of this work of making America a better nation. You have phone banked, written letters and postcards, registered voters, given rides to the polls. Your efforts were part of what gave this past election the largest voter turnout in our history. This work continues with renewed energy and vigor in this new year, with all its challenges and opportunities.
On Inauguration Day we will celebrate the successful transition of power, as we have done for 244 years. Then, our newly elected representatives must get down to the business of governing, to stem the spread of the pandemic, to help our hard-working families that are struggling in this economy, to address, finally, the looming issue of climate change, and to root out the racism that has too long poisoned our society. Rev. Kerri Parker of the Wisconsin Council of Churches said, “As a Christian, I believe in repentance. I believe there is always time for turning around and seeking a better way....and so, my prayer today is one which calls forth respect, honor, and right relationship.”
As we look to tomorrow, we pray for restoration of sanity to our country. We pray for an end to partisan rancor and that the forces that seek to use misinformation and disinformation to divide us fail. We pray that we can rebuild trust in factual information, trust in our democratic processes, and trust in those institutions that protect democracy, including objective and factual reporting on the workings of our government. We pray for leadership that will bring us together, heal a nation afflicted by a deadly pandemic, and protect and strengthen our democracy for the good of all, rather than undermine it to preserve the power of a few.
But prayer alone is not enough. As people of faith who are committed to making real the ideals on which our nation was founded, we must join together in the fight to protect our democracy. There are those in our state houses and Congress who would take recent events as an opportunity to enact new restrictions on the right to vote and on the right to protest.
Instead, we must break down barriers to voting and protect and defend the right to raise our voices together in nonviolent opposition to injustice. This is the time for us all as an interfaith community to unite to protect our democracy and our country. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.
Dr. King famously said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But it will not bend on its own, it will take all of us working together. So let us rise together as Dr. King called us to do so many years ago, with greater readiness and greater determination, to make America a better nation!
From the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Campaign, a joint project of Wisconsin Council of Churches and Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice