Were it not for the global pandemic, I imagine we would have all been gathered together around television screens and computer monitors in our workplaces, in restaurants and with friends or family watching today’s events in Washington unfold.
Isolated for our safety and that of others, I imagine that many if not all of us are currently glued to our TVs, computer screens or social media feeds while juggling a variety of thoughts and emotions.
For me, this has been a uniquely personal experience as close friends were in the Capitol today to carry out their constitutional duties as Members of Congress. It has been an anxious couple of hours awaiting confirmation of their safety, but I am relieved to report they are all currently safe; in fact, the entire Colorado congressional delegation has thankfully been reported safe.
Many years ago, I spent a great deal of time at the U.S. Capitol – as a tourist, an intern, a reporter and a congressional staffer. Never in a million years could I have imagined that a building so revered by both political parties; so steeped in history, importance, symbolism and purpose – a building so central to our democracy – could be so endangered by domestic threats.
But let’s be honest. Today’s events are uniquely personal for ALL of us. This is our country. These were our elected officials – of both parties – in danger. This is our Capitol under siege. This is our democracy being threatened. These are our electoral processes being interrupted. This is our country looking like scenes from coup attempts in war zones and autocratic regimes.
And yes, it is beyond difficult to reconcile the stark differences in law enforcement response to today’s rioters versus the responses we have seen to peaceful, non-trespassing demonstrations focused on racial justice.
As the siege continues, there is little we can do but bear witness and ensure we embed these images in our memories, share them with our children and future generations, and commit – regardless of political party – to find opportunities to support, advocate for and protect our democracy as it is far more fragile than any of us realized.
There will be much analysis to come of how these divisions became so pronounced in our nation. There are likely some – that community foundations like ours – can play a long-term role in addressing: Education. Economic inclusion and opportunity. Civic engagement. Civil discourse. Bridging divides. Promoting justice and understanding. Battling intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia. Strengthening the local journalism ecosystem.
We do not work in a vacuum. And just as the pandemic and racial justice reckoning have provided a backdrop and context for Rose Community Foundation’s work, so too will the current threat to our democracy influence the lenses through which we see the world and our strategic investments to advance inclusive, engaged and equitable Greater Denver communities through values-driven philanthropy.
It has been reported that Republican and Democratic Members of Congress were praying together when the Capitol first went into lockdown and they were being told to shelter in place with gas masks. Perhaps we can hope that some bipartisan goodwill and de-escalation of division emerges from this shared national trauma. The future of our democracy requires it.