My plan was to tell you how grateful I was for all the work you all did to elect Jon Ossoff and Rev. Warnock.
My plan was to tell you how all that work had ensured that my grandson, born on Epiphany, was welcomed into a better world because of the work you did.
I was feeling so hopeful about our future. But then insurgents breached the doors of the United States Capitol. They desecrated the halls of government. They looted. They stole. They made a mockery of law enforcement. They defiled the Senate and threatened our elected officials and employees. They ranted and rampaged.
My grown children called me. “I’m scared, Mama. What does this mean?” I had no reassurances to share. All my life I have watched as our soldiers have gone into foreign countries and gave their lives to stop coups like the one we all were witnessing. But this wasn’t Bogota. This wasn’t Hanoi. This wasn’t Tripoli. This was Washington, D.C. And these weren’t Russians. They weren’t Chinese. They weren’t foreign agents. They were white people bearing Trump flags. People whose allegiance is to a rich white man who wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire.
Anarchists looking to keep their orange man in power, no matter the cost to Democracy. This was not Antifa. These were not peaceful protesters.
They carried guns, pipe bombs, tear gas, survival gear. They climbed upon the portico of our nation’s Capitol building and replaced the US flag with a Trump flag. If symbolism matters as a form of propaganda, think upon that for a moment. Those who fly those Trump flags on pine trees in front of their homes would replace the US flag with a Trump flag in our nation’s capital. Their allegiance, as we witnessed with our own eyes, is not to this country, but to the rantings of one delusional power-hungry man. If ever there was an evil-doer, Trump is it.
Epiphany. A recognition of Creation made manifest in the sweet breath of an infant child. My grandson, a child born on Epiphany, will read about this day in history books. He will ponder what happened to the country that offered his own people so much hope and promise. He may wonder why police stood aside and allowed and, indeed complicity participated in the violence that led to bloodshed in these once-hallowed halls of government.
I awoke from the dream in which my grown grandson visited the grave of his own fallen grandfather, KIA, and asked the fallen, how such sacrifices could matter if racists thugs could so easily dismantle our Democracy.
I intended to tell you, how grateful I am for the work you do to preserve this Republic for our children and grandchildren.
I wanted to tell you how much hope I have for the future of our country. I wanted to tell you, as I told my own sibling, that I hope to never ever again live in the country where rich white men decide everything for all the rest of us. Instead I found myself on the phone crying to my dad’s youngest brother, the one who was only 16 when Dad was KIA. A veteran. A patriot. A Jesus-follower.
He told me a story about his own military service, back in the 1970s when he was at Fort Bliss. How he and others were watching a television news story – part of the requirement of staying informed – about a rich fellow out of New York City whose family’s wealth had kept him out of Vietnam. How his daddy’s money had ensured that he would never have to risk his life in the war my uncle’s older brother, my father, had died in.
This rich fellow reportedly had feet problems, the TV anchor explained.
“Hey Spears,” one of the other soldiers called out to my uncle. “How come your feet didn’t keep you from serving?”
My uncle is a tall man with long slabs of flat feet. Others in the room chuckled as my uncle, a humble man with wry wit, sat quietly, pondering the soldier’s rhetorical question.
“Because my daddy ain’t rich,” my uncle replied.
My uncle, like all five of my dad’s brothers, thought serving in the military was an honor and a duty, not something to weasel one’s way out of.
My grandfather once introduced me to a waitress pouring him a fresh cup of coffee at the local diner as, “This here is Dave’s daughter. My boy who was killed in ‘Nam.” I don’t know if I remember that moment because it was the only time my grandfather ever took me to his favorite hang-out, or because he referred to me as “Dave’s daughter.” I do know it was the only time Pap ever mentioned my father’s name in my presence.
The mothers and fathers of Appalachia have been sacrificing their sons and daughters in service of this country ever since they left the Scottish moors for the Smoky Mountains.
My uncle’s wife once showed me the photos her father, a World War II veteran, took during his tour of duty. He was standing in a big grassy field dotted with heaps of broken bodies. The sons of other common men and women. Some of whom undoubtedly had feet trouble that could have kept them out of the military had their daddies been rich as well.
My uncle never forgot that day in the TV room at Fort Bliss, nor the man profiled – Donald Trump. When I think of my father and our family’s sacrifices, it’s not me I think of most often. It’s my uncle and his brothers, my aunts, his sisters, and my poor Appalachian granny, and my Pap.
“This whole community of loved ones who lost Dad,” I told my uncle.
What lies do you have to tell yourself to burglarize the office of the Speaker of the House? I wondered as I studied the photo of Richard Barnett, a 60-year old man from Arkansas, who called Nancy Pelosi a “fucking bitch” and bragged about ransacking her office, stealing her mail, and scratching his balls in her chair, with a US flag he had carried was strewn nearby.
Ironically, Barnett received one of the PPE loans Pelosi helped negotiate to alleviate the suffering caused by Covid.
For that matter, what lies do you have to tell yourself to make it okay ever to rape our nation’s Capitol?
I hope I never know what those lies are, because if I did perhaps I’d be as evilhearted as Mr. Barnett or Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley.
I come from a long line of humble people. Kindhearted patriots like my Uncle Doug, and like his brother Dave.
As my grandson grows up, he will be taught the stories of humble men and women, those from Appalachia and those from Peru. And my lifelong prayer for him, for all my grandchildren, is that they too will grow up humble people in a country free of men like Donald Trump, free of men like Richard Barnett, free of men who seek to destroy Democracy and desecrate all things sacred.
I hope the only time my grandchildren ever witness violent insurgents climbing the portico of the nation’s Capitol to replace a US flag with a MAGA flag while proclaiming the name of Jesus is in the pages of history books or in historical documentaries.
Despite the violence I witnessed on the day my grandson was born, I believe we will rise from this a better people. Or more specifically, I believe we can if we work at it.
Los Reyes Magos. Three Kings Day. A day to honor the three wise men – Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar – who came bearing gifts for the newborn child. Gold because of its preciousness. Frankincense, perfume for the prayerful. Myrrh, a healing balm.
May we all be so wise as to prayerfully seek opportunities to bring the balm of healing to this precious world Creator has gifted us with.
And may we all be about the the business of making the kind of magic you all did down in Georgia when you elected a Black man and a Jewish man to help heal this nation from the racism that is manifested in Trump and those he incites.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND (Mercer Univ. Press).
Antifa Appalachia Arkansas Bogota Christ incarnate Congress coup democracy Democrats Donald J. Trump Epiphany evil Fort Bliss GEORGIA Gifts of the Magi gold grandfather healing balm Humble insurgency Insurgents Jon Ossoff kinfolk MAGA Myrrh Nancy Peolsi newborn Nurture Peru prayer QAnon racism Rev. Warnock Rhetoric Richard Barnett Scotland Moors Smoky Mountains Tripoli Trump Wisdom World War II