On Wednesday last week, the world saw an insurrectionist mob forcibly enter the U.S. Capitol and violently interrupt the certification of Electoral College votes confirming the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the United States.
This frightening incident dramatically exposed the fragility of our democracy and the racist systems underlying our practice of democracy.
We are reminded of Langston Hughes' poem which begins "O, let America be America again–/The land that never has been yet–". It speaks to the ongoing need to build and realize a republic, a nation that makes it possible for all persons to be able to benefit from the promises, rights and freedom we value and profess.
Perhaps you have heard it said, or wondered aloud to yourself, "What would have happened if that mob had included a majority of people of color?"
Would they have initially been welcomed? Chatted with? Posed for selfies? Casually shown the door? Unlikely.
Most likely, there would have been more violent attacks on brown and black bodies. More likely, we'd be reckoning with a tragically higher death count.
The majority of the sisters in our congregation are white persons who benefit from the privileges of whiteness. For a long time, we've understood the indefensibility of this unjust system from which we continue to benefit. The incident in Washington last week has only made more apparent and more urgent the need for change.
For that reason, the Leadership of our community and I released the following statement in response to the crisis:
On Jan. 7 people in the United States awoke to a new reality – but not one without hope. It is possible now for all of us to see as clearly as we ever have the fault lines that divide our nation. We firmly believe it is also possible to heal them.
The assault on truth and the democratic rule of law at the U.S. Congress on Jan. 6 revealed the depths to which a nation can fall when its leaders are blinded by hunger for privilege and power at the expense of their own dignity, the dignity of all its people, and the common good. The violent mob-action that breached barely secured walls of the Capitol was a frightening and predictable consequence of years of assault on truth, the Constitution, civil rights and democracy itself.
What we witnessed Jan. 6 in our most sacred civic space has revealed an urgent need to forge a path for the renewal of our sacred bonds as members of a nation whose highest ideals – if we are honest – have never yet in our nation's story been equitably made available to all.
As citizens of our beloved nation and women vowed to serve the truth of God's infinite love for all creation, we offer our prayers, our energies and our collective desire for national healing and renewal. When we as a nation acknowledge our historic failings and recommit our energies toward assuring sacred, treasured rights for all, we can begin anew the process of building a republic of citizens, recognizing one another as a people, indivisible, who uphold our common desire for liberty and justice for all.
Some may wonder how we can speak of hope at this dark moment in our nation's story. Hope is what happens to us when we've reached the limits of our individual human powers to find a solution for a challenge. This offer of prayer, and our call for all people of good will to join us in prayer, is not the end, then, but a beginning. It is a beginning of our individual and corporate contribution to building an equitable and just democratic republic. We start by begging God's help.
Along with Sister Marcelline Koch, the statement was signed by Springfield Dominican Sisters Rebecca Ann Gemma, Rose Miriam Schulte, Mila Díaz Solano and Marie Michelle Hackett, members of the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.
Sister Marcelline Koch, OP, is the director of the congregation's Office for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.