Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

I was pleased to cover the swearing-in ceremony for Monroe’s newly elected officials on Jan. 5. Mayor John Howard commented that last year’s city elections were rigorous, but the vitriol often found in federal and state races was not present here.

The mayor said all the candidates who ran for office did so because they all love the city of Monroe. And those who witnessed the mayor and council members take their oaths of office were also cordial, no matter their political views. That is how it should be at every level of government.

It was once.

The city’s amicable swearing in ceremony came on the eve of the Jan. 6 anniversary of the attack on the Capitol. I was surprised by how much the anniversary itself affected me emotionally. It was similar to how I feel when I observe the anniversaries of the deaths of my parents and other loved ones.

When I observe these sad anniversaries, I miss the presence of these family members. Now when I remember Jan. 6, I will mourn the unity we, as Americans, lost that day. And I fear our Democracy will be placed on life support if we can’t breach a widening divide and come back together again.

In my Jewish faith, we observe the anniversary of a spouse or relative’s passing by lighting a yahrzeit, or memorial, candle. Had the insurrectionists succeeded in injuring or causing the deaths of even more people than they did, I would have had to light a memorial bonfire on Jan. 6.

The facts are these: About 140 law enforcement officers were injured, many of them seriously, protecting our lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans – on that day. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died from a stroke on Jan. 7, 2021. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metro Police Officer Jeffrey Smith died by suicide just days after the assault. Metro Police Officers Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag took their own lives last July. One of the rioters was fatally shot by police and several others died in connection to the mob violence.

Some of the insurrectionists threatened to hang Vice President Mike Pence. Others went in search of lawmakers, threatening them bodily harm.

I just don’t understand why more folks aren’t horrified by what happened. Especially when many people in our corner of the state declare they are conservatives who believe in the rule of law and support our men and women in blue. A lot of these same people were angry when a few protests connected to the Black Lives Matter movement became violent.

So why not take the assault on our Republic as seriously?

I think the only way to heal from this collective trauma is to examine and treat the wound, however deep. And that means analyzing how we got to this point.

I’m not a historian, but I did grow up with a parent who survived genocide.

My father warned my siblings and me that authoritarianism could rise anywhere, even in his precious adopted country of the United States. Dad said the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews and others started gradually. The spreading of propaganda mixed with populism was quite effective, he told us. Repeat the lies often enough and they will be believed.

My father also advised us not to blindly follow any one person or group, or to remain silent when we see wrongs being committed. He spoke about average German citizens who claimed they didn’t know what was happening in the 1930s and ’40s. Dad said they knew, they just denied knowing.

I hope that more of my fellow Americans will stop denying what is true; that the very foundations of our Democratic government continue to be under siege. Don’t be a “good German” of the 1930s. Be an American patriot strong enough to condemn violence and embrace the results of our free and fair elections — even if the candidate you voted for didn’t win.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. Her email address is denise.etheridge@waltontribune.com.

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