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Walter Suza: We can choose peace

Walter Suza
Guest opinion columnist

The past four years have been difficult. The year 2020 was difficult. January 6, 2021 was very difficult.

The nation witnessed an angry mob break into the Capitol chanting to harm Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The mob wanted carnage, and they got what they wanted by breaching the security and entering the Capitol building.

Some in the mob wore tactical military gear and gas masks and wielded riot shields. Others demonstrated the skill and strength of rock climbers as they were seen crawling on the walls of the Capitol. Reports also stated that pipe bombs and guns were brought to the riot.

Seeing the mayhem made me sad and angry.

The scene triggered memories of BLM marches after George Floyd’s death. But this time, the rioting mob was treated differently by law enforcement.

I felt angry to see some law enforcement officers letting the mob walk into the Capitol’s perimeter. I expected tighter security because there were warnings on social media, including President Trump’s tweets, that the mob would descend on the Capitol.

I felt angry that there are Black elected officials who have contested the election of Joe Biden, which makes them complicit with insurrection.

How could a Black person living in America be a part of an effort to violate voting rights, to glorify the Confederate flag, to display symbols of hate?

The rioters brought the Bible and Jesus into their mobbery. These mobsters displayed a banner with the words "Jesus Saves" and another showing a man holding the Bible at the riot.

Seeing the words “Jesus Saves” reminded me of certain people who didn’t want Jesus in their village. Some of Jesus’s disciples became angry and wondered if it was OK to punish the unkind villagers. The exchange was as follows: And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

Unfortunately, the mob didn’t come to the U.S. Capitol to save lives. The mob was there to destroy lives.

Five people died, including one police officer, because of the attack on January 6.

The mob scuffled with police inside the west side of the Capitol building, pushing and shoving and overpowering the police. One of the white police officers got trapped between metal doors, yet the mob kept pushing the door and crashing the police officer. I saw blood in his teeth. I heard him scream in pain. He couldn’t escape.

It was heartbreaking to see that white police officer in that horrific situation. That officer is a loved one to someone. That officer is someone’s son.

The FBI has issued a warning that more armed protests are planned for the entire country this weekend. We must take the warning seriously and our elected leaders must encourage everyone to seek peace instead of violence. Violence can plunge the nation into a civil war.

Civil wars are deadly.

The American Civil War cost this country hundreds of thousands of lives, yet some of the rioters wore shirts with words “Civil War.”

Abraham Lincoln would’ve been sad and angry. Ulysses S. Grant would’ve been sad and angry to see the Confederate flag in a place they had fought to protect.

In spite of sadness and anger, I believe we can find a way to heal the country. But it will require addressing the core reason for the January 6 insurrection. Fear.

In the 1790s, Jeffersonian Republicans were reluctant to support the French Revolution and the idea of universal human equality for fear that there might be a slave insurrection in the quest for racial equality in America.

Almost 200 years later, for fear of losing power, a Republican president encouraged an insurrection to disenfranchise millions of Black voters in large cities.

We need to address our fears to find peace.

FDR who led during World War II would’ve wished for America to be free from fear. But this time, it's not America’s fear of a foreign enemy. This time, fear has driven angry pro-Trump rioters to attack their fellow Americans.

We can’t heal without addressing the root causes of our fears of each other.

After those who invaded the U.S. Capitol have been brought to justice, let’s work to resolve our fears to remedy the grim situation in America.

The work starts with creation of a truth and reconciliation commission to mediate national conversations about injustices and grief that have haunted this country from the time of its birth.

Let’s choose peace. Let’s save lives.

Walter P. Suza

Walter Suza of Ames writes frequently on the intersections of spirituality, anti-racism and social justice. He can be contacted at wsuza2020@gmail.com.