History has a way of finding the most important elements of a single event and watching the ripple effect across society. It will be that way when we examine January 6th, decades from now. The single moments won’t matter as much as the narratives and stories that emerge about how we face the consequences of that fateful day.
What matters more are the stories we tell of that day, both collectively as a nation, and individually as citizens. Within these stories live truths and untruths time will inevitably expose.
How do I know? I have seen such events play out during decades working with those fighting for democracy around the world.
Collective actions create the destiny of our democracy. The inevitable moments assessing that fate will come from questions asked by those who matter most to each of us – our loved ones. Beyond politics, those we love will face the consequences of our actions or inactions today. They will be choices of either resistance, persistence, and resilience or those of appeasement, acquiescence, and acceptance. We will emerge as a nation based on faith in the truths we hold self-evident or in fear and falsehoods.
The question you must ask is, ‘What will be your response to loved ones in 2034 about your actions in response to January 6th today?’
Will you be proud to recount your role? Or will your justifications ring hollow?
If choosing the latter, will they respect your moral accommodations on behalf of one man’s zero-sum desire for power and revenge over a lost election?
Will they will see protecting your career or political ambitions as justified? Will the future you agreed to by staying silent make them admire you? “What can you do against a lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your argument a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?”
The future is the most perfect lens for the examination of unintended consequences. As with prior democratic system collapses, explaining complicity in the falsehoods of today and the results of those lies will be an imposing task, particularly so to those living the consequences.
How do you spin actions that ended the globally admired norm the losing side in an election respectfully handing over power? How do you justify that instant when our founders’ grand experiment, earned through the blood of so many, failed? Will you continue the Big Lie for years? Decades? Forever?
The path to this dystopian existence leads through a political and media ecosystem where both sides rationalize falsehoods and revisionism.
We focus upon a series of hours, minutes, and seconds, each an attempt to distract from the days, months, and years of abandoning the courage needed to speak truths. We race towards an abyss rather than upholding the principles required for defending our democracy. We spend more time insulting those who entrusted this nation to our generation than protecting it for the generation to come.
January 6th was an instant when the American Experiment reached a tipping point as an inevitable result of the dysfunction plaguing our body politic. That day will be a milestone by which history will judge our generation.
Some say we should move on. This is a misguided notion that seeking the truth about that day is “purely a political exercise” and “things which occurred in the past.” This argument mocks the severity and danger of that day. They know and understand the truth, but lie regardless. “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering those shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.”
Such doublethink led to the reality we face.
In 2034, will your kin know you stood and fought for our democracy? Will they understand you sacrificed self-interest for the common interest democracy requires? Or will you remain in the safety of silence knowing full well those who control the past control the future?
We either get these answers right as a nation and individually or we’ll bear witness to those who attempt to seize power in another 1/6, never intending to relinquish it.
How will you answer in 2034?
Your future is watching.
– Trygve Olson
Senior Advisor, The Lincoln Project