I was aroused from a rare deep sleep this morning to the nightmare that I was lying on railroad tracks and couldn’t get up. A kind man tried to help me as the train barrelled toward me and my whole being went to jelly. I woke up right before the train cut me in half.
This is a fitting dream for the first anniversary of the attempted coup on America, one that I watched on TV in real time and in horror along with much of the nation. Sadly, I was not surprised. Given the level of vitriol against people of color, against immigrants, against women, against Democrats, against the results of the election, political violence was inevitable.
After watching days of coverage in the media and on the Twittersphere about the so-called Stop the Steal rally, I knew that something nasty was brewing and I tweeted for people of color to stay home on that day. Safe in my own home, I waited helplessly for stuff to hit the fan. And then it did.
For those who have escaped diabolical regimes, America was supposed to be the safe space, the steady. I recognize the PTSD, triggered by January 6, 2021 in the silence, in what has not been said by people I know. Here we go again.
But today my mission is not to recount the harrowing scenes of hand-to-hand combat between insurrectionists and the police, or of legislators scrambling away for their lives while the noose built to hang then Vice President Mike Pence swung in the wind. Today my mission is a call, a plea to those of us who are the products of, or who have lived in countries broken by coups, to share with their American friends and colleagues lessons learned.
I hope that my friends and colleagues who have experienced political violence will take this opportunity to tell their stories. There is healing in releasing the silence, and power in sharing hard truths.
The biggest lesson is that once you break your country, it cannot be unbroken. This is something I hope that those of us who have had front-row seats to political upheaval will share with our American compatriots today. And that the unraveling of democracy is often insidious. A broken rule here, a destroyed institution there. As everyday citizens go about their lives, shaking their heads and brushing off each new infraction, the edges of democracy fray, until a big event like a coup or an attempted coup rips their beloved homeland completely in two.
Democracy exists for all, not just for people who look like you or for people whom you like. Once the idea that the vote only counts when certain groups have it you do not have a democracy. One day the group that doesn’t count may be your own.
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