I can’t even seem to put words together about what happened. We all saw on TV as a mob of seditionists laid siege to the Capitol. Our Capitol. A temple to democracy was attacked, defiled, and invaded. It was an insurrection. For all those of you who are participating in this call outside the US, I know you are just as shocked and horrified as we are, those of us, here in the US. It was a bleak day, really for the whole world.
I try not to be political in public, because I understand that you and I may not hold all of the same opinions. And that’s ok. I don’t want any differences of opinion to intercept and otherwise invalidate your healing process. My goal, above all, is to help you heal. For that, I set aside my politics and you set aside yours when we come together to find spirituality, strength, and self-empowerment.
But yesterday wasn’t about differences of opinion. Yesterday was a violent attack on all of us, and the truths we most believe in. It was a traumatic wound on the soul of our country, and on all of us. As one whose career is dedicated to helping people heal, I would be doing a disservice to myself and all of you if I didn’t examine this attack like I do all other traumas I’ve dealt with, personally or professionally. We have got to get at the roots of this darkness and discover how to heal.
So that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
When I turned on the news yesterday, like you, I saw scenes of carnage that are incompatible with American life. We are a democracy. We vote. Our votes matter. And we respect the results of the vote. We may disagree. We may protest. We may speak publicly and forcefully, and engage in peaceful and meaningful protest, as I am doing now, and as many other Americans have done before.
But we don’t override the very mechanisms that grant us freedom – no matter the rationale. So, how did we get here? What happened to us? Yesterday, after the insurrection was quelled, I heard a lot of brave men and women say, “this is not us.” “This is not America.” I understand what they mean when they say, “this is not who we are.” They mean “this is not what we were raised to value.” But the point remains, the people who perpetrated this atrocity were Americans. This is, unfortunately, who some of us are. Not all of us. Some of us.
I’m not a history professor. I’m a healer. But I know enough about our history to know this didn’t happen overnight – and what happened yesterday, while despicable – wasn’t a complete surprise. America has seen its fair share of violence. The Civil War, where people took up arms against the government for their right to own other people. That’s not democratic. That’s a wound on our soul.
Yesterday, people took up arms against the government because they didn’t like the result of a lawful election. That’s not democratic. That’s a violent assault. How did we get here?
In any type of violence perpetrated such as this: there are three types of people. The perpetrators themselves, those who fight back, and those who are complicit – the enablers. It’s time to talk about the enablers.
Let’s take a step back for a moment, and think about a smaller example. Let’s think about violence in the household.
Imagine a father, like my own. He’s a strong man. He provides for his family. Good money. Good home. Good schools. The kids have the best toys. The wife has beautiful clothes. On the surface, it appears neat and orderly. But the father can’t control his temper. Every time a child does something he views as wrong – forgets to put a toy away, doesn’t say “yes sir,” the child gets beaten.
The mother, of course, hates this and is secretly horrified. She blots the cuts with iodine and puts ice on the bruises. But she doesn’t leave her partner. How could she leave? He is the provider. How can she afford to care for her children at that level? Her husband hasn’t hit her. So she turns a blind eye. She plays it down, she says to herself, “He’s not a bad man. He just does a bad thing once in a while.” She dismisses it, yet again, telling the kids, “Don’t talk back to your father next time.” “He still loves you.”
It’s hard to hear that, I know. It’s happened to so many of us. It happened to me. Someone I loved, my mother, turned a blind eye to my pain, occasioned by my darling father, and I’ve carried those painful memories with me for decades. When someone turns a blind eye to another’s pain, what they’re doing is two-fold. First, they’re rationalizing the abuse, so that they don’t feel bad about their choice to allow it. Second, they’re (subconsciously or otherwise) deciding that the benefit is greater than the pain being inflicted on others. They’re saying “my house, my position in the community, my prestige, is more important than your black eye.”
Hearing that, you might be horrified, and you are right to be. But we need to ask ourselves the hard questions – truthfully, how often have we been complicit? Have we sat back at the office and watched as a colleague wrongfully took credit for someone else’s work? As a coworker was sexually harassed? As someone was racially profiled? Have we sat back, in the family, as a family member was bullied, telling
ourselves, “it’s really none of my business.” Just last year, I squelched my urge to confront a family member for doing just that, rationalizing it as “really, none of my business,” when, in fact, I just didn’t want to create a fuss and be unliked by yet another family member. Or have we sat back as a friend was criticized unfairly or excluded or marginalized, and excused our silence as “really none of our business” or excused his remark, saying, “he was just kidding.”
Have we all sat back thus far, as we’ve been witnessing the supposed leader of the free world, who is clearly a bully, a sexual abuser, a racist, and a liar, and, most recently, an insurrectionist, and turned a blind eye? Because it didn’t affect us personally? Because we benefitted financially, that’s the excuse my family uses, to enjoy those lower taxes? Or because, in my own case and perhaps yours, I worried that in speaking up I’d lose clients or friends or the few relatives I have that are still speaking to me?
It reminds me of the time last year that, quite innocently, I said “black lives matter” here, on my FaceBook page, and watched as over 2,000 people unliked me in the next hour. Seriously! I had no idea that I had said anything controversial, as I couldn’t imagine that anyone who liked my page, because they want to meditate with me, or learn about energy healing, or receive spiritual guidance – how could those good people possibly countenance a white man standing on an innocent black man’s neck until he died, right in front of all of us?! But after that, I turned even more of a blind eye as the situation unfolded and we, as a country, watched as this bully of a president became more and more emboldened to abuse people, since none of us were brave enough to stand up and criticize him.
At the Capitol yesterday, the logical conclusion of enough people turning a blind eye played out in real-time with deadly consequences. So when I saw politicians say yesterday “this is not who we are,” I think “well, OK, you didn’t participate in this attack. You are not a perpetrator.” But then I challenge them to answer, “are you perhaps an enabler?” “Did you turn a blind eye?”
Let me change my choice of words. Blind eye is a weak expression.
“Closed eye” is a better one. A blind eye implies you cannot see. A closed eye means you choose not to see. And a lot of us Americans chose not to see what has been implicitly building in our country for years, as well as in many other countries around the globe.
Some of these otherwise good politicians chose not to see because it helped them get elected. They chose not to see because it got their preferred policies enacted. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: they chose not to see.
I know this might be upsetting. And understand that I am not saying that the reasons – getting elected, getting policies passed – are implicitly bad things to do on their own. We all have things we want. It’s not a bad thing to have a nice house, have a nice paycheck, stay married, or get elected! It becomes immoral when you accept darkness as the path to achieving these goals. But it there’s one thing I’ve
learned, is that closing your eyes to a bully is accepting darkness and does nothing except embolden his or her behavior.
This is not a new concept. You’ve heard the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” before, right? That’s an example of “accepting darkness” as a way to achieve what you want. You rationalize the darkness. You said “it doesn’t directly affect me.” Or “I’m not directly part of it.”
But it does affect us. Because serving as an enabler is a temporary position. It is untenable. You either become consumed by the darkness until you are the same as the bully, or the bully turns on you and you become the next victim.
I’m reminded of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who in the leadup to World War II, agreed to Hitler’s demands for a piece of Czechoslovakia to satiate his territorial hunger. Chamberlain declared afterward he had achieved “peace in our time.” He couldn’t have been further from the truth. Britain soon found itself engulfed in a terrible war. Chamberlain’s successor, Churchill would finally lay out the reality, saying: “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.”
Hitler was a bully. Chamberlain, and so many others, believed that if they gave Hitler what he wanted, if they appeased him, he’d be satisfied. He’d stop bullying. They were gravely mistaken. A bully is never satisfied. And the bully eventually swings at you, the enabler.
Hard truth, isn’t it. This is what we saw yesterday at the Capitol – many who had enabled this bully by turning a closed eye found themselves facing his very real and very violent ire. A good friend said to me this morning “well, those congress men and women now know what it feels like to be a small business owner in somewhere, say, like Portland, where their store is burned to the ground in the name of peaceful protest.” She is right – we should have rounded up the Proud Boys and jailed them way back in Portland, long before they became this emboldened by our failure to be brave and take action.
“That is how we got here.” We got here by enough of us watching a bully tell us exactly what he wanted – to jail his political opponents and invalidate an election – and simply believe “oh, if we humor him, as we have in the past, it will soon be over, he will simply have to leave.” He didn’t. He incited an insurrection. This isn’t about conservative vs liberal. I’ve often been on Fox News, as a contributor on family values; conservatives have things of value to bring to the table. So it’s not about conservative values, many of which are very decent and worthy of pursuing. This is about democracy vs a dangerous despot.
“How did we get here?” “We got here by enough of us turning a closed eye.”
To be clear, not everyone turned a closed eye. Not everyone participated in this failed insurrection. A lot of brave people have stood up to this darkness. They’ve called a spade a spade. They’ve said, “this is a threat.” And they’ve fought back. I do not want to discount that. I want to applaud that. People on both sides of the aisle have said: “No. This is unacceptable.” And these people have not stopped at words. They put their words into action.
Mitt Romney, the Republican Senator from Utah, was the sole Republican who voted to convict President Trump in his Senate Trial, if you think back. He said, “I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.” That’s very impressive.
And he’s just one of many brave politicians, activists, and officials who put their careers and lives on the line to stand up for what is right: justice. Look at how brave the men of the Lincoln Project have been, sacrificing their political careers, pretty much, to stand up again this bully. They stood up when, really, no one else was willing to, in the Republican party.
Last night, our democracy, and with it our sense of justice, was attacked. But justice and democracy prevailed. Law enforcement was able to repulse the insurrection, and Congress was able to execute its duties – to count the certified electoral vote tallies. As Congress reconvened to count the certified vote, I was heartened to hear politicians on both sides of the aisle condemn this anti-democratic
attack on our country. Defying his boss, Vice President Pence, assured us that he would “keep his oath to the American people.” Senator Chuck Schumer said “Democracy’s roots in this nation are deep, they are strong. They will not be undone ever by a group of thugs. Democracy will triumph, as it has for centuries.” Senators cheered. Many Republican Senators who had previously voiced their support for
continuing the President’s attacks on our election results rescinded their support. Senator Lankford, who had been speaking when the mob attacked, changed his speech when he returned. “We disagree on a lot of things and we have a lot of spirited debate in this room, but we talk it out and we honor each other. Even in our disagreements, that person, that person is not my enemy. That’s my fellow American. And while we disagree on things, and disagree strongly at times, we do not encourage what happened today. Ever.”
What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. Everyone’s eyes were forced open. You can’t turn a blind eye when you’re literally under attack. And at that point, sides need to be taken. You can’t enable the darkness. You can turn against the darkness or you can be the darkness, it’s that simple.
Yesterday, I’m glad to say, many who had previously enabled the darkness finally said “enough is enough.” I am grateful for that. I am glad that the light prevailed yesterday. But it doesn’t shake my fear that it had to get this bad for enough to be enough. It had to get to the point of a coup attempt for some to say, “no, I draw the line.”
“You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” I have to tell you, many many Americans have had their head in the mouth of a tiger for years. Decades. Yesterday, millions of us found the tiger’s teeth on our head, perhaps for the first time. We felt that fear.
Some of us had our eyes opened. Others of us said, “this is what we’ve been talking about all along.” Where do we go from here? First off, believe people. Believe people when they say they’re a tiger. Don’t say “oh, she’s not really a bully. She’s not really a tiger – she’s just painted up like one.” Believe people when they say “a tiger has my head in its mouth.” Don’t say, “oh, the tiger’s teeth aren’t that sharp.” “It’s not my head in its mouth.” “You shouldn’t have put your head so close to the tiger.”
No. Believe them.
To those of you who are struggling to process what happened, understand that your pain is valid. We are Americans, and our country was attacked. By other Americans. Our values were desecrated. That’s real pain. Don’t ignore it. Don’t chastise yourself for not being productive; for being complicit. You were assaulted. We were all, collectively assaulted by domestic terrorists. To those of you who have sounded the alarm, answered democracy’s call, and fought for our freedoms, I thank you. I thank you deeply from the bottom of my soul.
To those who participated in this assault, I urge you to stop and think about the damage you have caused to our country. Think about what you want – and what you were willing to sacrifice to get it. Nearly 250 years of fighting to build a robust democracy, that’s what you would sacrifice. Along with countless lives. That is darkness, and immorality.
Yesterday was January 6th. It’s the day that Christians celebrate as Epiphany – the day that the Magi found Christ. Epiphany means the manifestation of a divine being. But it also means the sudden realization of a powerful truth. Yesterday, two powerful forces were manifested: that of the darkness – of demagoguery, and that of the light – of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
There was also the realization of a powerful truth: that morals matter. Personal gain cannot be at the expense of morality. It doesn’t matter if this takes place in the home, in a relationship, at the office, or even at the country’s highest offices. Morals matter. The light matters.
I urge all of us to reflect on the devastating and scary events of yesterday, as well as the powerful triumph of the light over darkness, and hold this truth sacred: the light wins. The light wins when we embody it.
So, from here on out, let’s all be a lot braver, stronger, and embody the light. Let’s be willing to stand up and forcefully call out a bully’s behavior, to his face. Let’s be ready to call out a sexual abuser, right to his face. Let’s be ready to call out a liar, right to his face. And an insurrectionist, right to his face. Or we will face the consequences of enabling that darkness. I shudder when I think of all the times with this particular bully, this abuser, this bigot, this liar, that I swept it under the rug, telling myself, soon, he won’t be in office, not to worry, this too, shall pass. I ignored his lies about President Obama’s birth certificate. I cringed, and I bet you did to, when we saw him mock the disabled journalist. I stuck my head in the sand when all the women came forward and credibly claimed unconscionable acts of sexual violence and assault, as he relished that he could “grab ‘em by the pussy.” I looked the other way when he said on national TV, “Russia, are you listening.” I kept my mouth shut when it came to light the President called our troops “suckers” for dying in World War One. I didn’t say anything when he conspired with a foreign government to corrupt our election, and I stayed silent through countless other atrocities, like when he called white supremacists “very fine people” at Charlottesville.
I didn’t even raise an eyebrow when he called John McCain, a man we all respected, a “loser.” Really. Why? Mainly, because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship. Yours and mine. What if I offended you? Because I’m here to help you heal. And, let’s be honest: I love having you as a friend. But by me turning a blind eye to these assaults on all of us, I enabled his actions. I risked saying through my silence, “these actions aren’t a big deal.” Let me be clear: these actions were and are a big deal. If any of you came to me and told me you had been treated the way that this bully treated people, or those insurrectionists behaved yesterday, I would have done everything in my power to validate your pain, and work with you to heal from it. So that’s what I’m doing now.
Validating our collective pain and wounds. So that we can heal and protect ourselves from getting wounded again. We’ve got to be brave.
All of us. From the top down and the bottom up. I’m up here, putting myself out on the line, asking you to be brave with me. Let’s all acknowledge our complicity, agree never to be complicit with a bully or an aggressor or a liar again. Despite our politics. Or perhaps, even better, because of them. As we saw last night, in the Congress, is much light on both sides of the aisle. Let’s all embody the light, together.