I recently found a helpful definition of the word "terrorize" that dates back to the mid-1500s. Terrorize: "to cause fear so great as to overwhelm the mind." Humans sometimes terrorize other humans. It's destructive. It's also consuming; it takes up all our brain space, and fills us with anxiety, mistrust and uncertainty.
What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was domestic terrorism. Hundreds (potentially thousands) of people made the conscious choice to violently invade the legislative branch of the United States government. Property was destroyed. Offices were vandalized. Many were injured, and some people died as a result of what occurred that day.
My brain and heart have felt foggy since that afternoon. Maybe your experience has been similar — waves of overwhelm, distraction and sadness coursing through your veins. If so, please be gentle with yourself. You’re a thoughtful, empathetic person with thoughtful, empathetic responses to chaos and violence.
The more I seek to understand the motives of those involved in the destruction at the Capitol, the more overwhelmed I become by the weight of the predicament.
Whenever something terrible happens in the world, there are reports of the search for a motive. Lately, I wonder if it’s all the same sickness — an invisible, toxic vapor that we keep inhaling because it’s been part of the atmosphere for so long.
Humans terrorize other humans because we forget we’re indelibly connected. We’re part of a family tree that stretches all the way backward in time and all the way forward. We share membership in the same great mystery: existence. Yet, for a great cadre of reasons, we forget.
The capacity of homo sapiens to work together even when we aren’t required to is one of the qualities that makes us unique. Yet it’s all too often the feature we most easily forego.
What happens when members of a species fail to remember that they’re connected? So many wrenching realities. We then give in to the poisonous delusion that our differences define us most. We form allegiances based on mutual certainties and shared enemies. We pursue power at all costs. We ignore injustices, neglect neighbors, and refuse responsibility.
It’s hard to build anything sturdy without a firm base. We will keep finding ourselves in the rubble of one crumbled effort after another if we don’t pay attention to the foundation and the ground upon which it rests.
In a few days, President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated. In this country, a presidential inauguration is a special ceremony marking the beginning of a new four-year term.
Biden will recite the presidential oath. As he does, I wonder if we might all reflect upon our collective commitments — not only as a country, but as a species. To what values might you be willing to make a vow? Empathy? Responsibility? Justice? Accountability? Compassion? Forgiveness? Collaboration?
A new president will soon take office, but it won’t be up to one person to determine the future of the country or the planet. This is our shared effort. Keep participating in possibility.
"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website emilyannecarson.com.