This past week we commemorated the first anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building, an effort to derail the peaceful transfer of government after a certified, free, and fair election. I recall the images I saw on TV as I sat in utter disbelief at what I was seeing.
I know some of you may disagree with my sentiment, but that date was a shameful day in American history. Regardless of our beliefs about that day, innocent people were injured and lost their lives, and for that, there can be no justification.
Since the events of that day, there have been calls for unity, calls to put those events behind us, and calls to unify once again as a country. People are saying that we need to come together, as we did after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and I would agree. However, there can be no unity until the truth is spoken and there is reconciliation.
I am all for bringing people together and have spent the better part of my adult life trying to achieve that unity, but sometimes unity is impossible. For example, I cannot see unity with people who think that the event that happened on Jan. 6, 2021, was noble or patriotic. Likewise, I find no unity or common ground with people who hold racist, homophobic, or white supremacist ideas and ideologies. In my mind, there simply can be no unity there.
The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu worked very hard in South Africa after the apartheid regime fell to bring people of both sides together. He understood that healing needed to happen, but the truth had to be spoken before healing could occur, and justice had to be served. Facing the truth is not always easy, but it is necessary, and facing the truth about oneself and one’s country is always the most brutal truth to face.
One of my favorite movies is “The American President,” starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. Near the end of the movie, President Shepherd, played by Douglas, is holding a press conference, and he starts to speak about America and how difficult it can be. He says: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”
The greatness of America lies in the understanding that we have not always been perfect. We have made mistakes, big ones, and we have learned from most of them. There is nothing wrong with looking at where we have come from and saying that is not who we are anymore; it is part of our past, but it will not dictate the future.
At the end of the day, we are all in this together regardless of the side of the political spectrum where we happen to fall. Unity comes at a cost, and that cost is truth, and that cost is reconciliation. Let us work toward that goal in the coming year.
The Rev. Dr. Peter-Michael Preble is pastor of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church in Hull and the bereavement coordinator with the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association.