January 6, 2021
Americans woke up on the morning of January 6, 2021, learning that Georgia elected its first African-American Senator–a historic event only to be overshadowed by thousands of Americans storming the Capitol building in the afternoon.
On my commute home, my mother-in-law, a retired social studies teacher, texts me: “Protestors have invaded the Capitol building…”
The Capitol, the People’s House in Washington, D.C. My favorite city; a social studies teacher’s Disneyland.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, the day we returned from break, I discussed current events with my students with a bulleted list of topics. One of those bullets was labeled January 6, 2021. I wanted to explain how the constitution–our nation’s rule book–set this date as a final step of the presidential election process and the peaceful transfer of power. I desired to offer a civics lesson, but my students asked me about President Trump’s call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, coercing him to overturn his state’s election results. I told my students that the electoral college certification is usually dull, but to expect some drama with those politicians who claimed that the election was fraudulent. Boy, I underestimated how badly the adults would behave.
Since 2016, Trump’s actions, words, and executive orders have invaded my classroom, raising questions and concerns from the youth in my charge. The Trump presidency has fundamentally changed the discourse and the legitimacy of sources of… Click To Tweet
Already exhausted from living through one historic event, the election of 2020 added more controversy and increased division in our country. While protests have become the norm, the response appears to depend on the issue and skin color.
Now the nation’s Capitol building steps are littered with Confederate flags peppered between Trump 2020 banners and giant Amerian flags. Windows smashed, explosive devices found, shots fired. Many of these terrorists taking selfies, strut around the sacred building, acting as characters in the Lord of the Flies. Most of the footage is bizarre–some protestors are milling around like it just a typical Wednesday or that they are simply tourists.
Although women are in the crowd, the faces are predominantly male and very white. Police and the media mostly don masks, while the protestors’ faces are bare.
How do I reconcile how my students witnessed the Black Lives Matter protestors’ treatment versus today’s terrorists? Terrorists/protestors who claim to be patriots; people who wave banners declaring their warped vision of freedom. How do I explain to my students that our federal government has been held hostage by people who believe that our democracy and electoral process is broken? How do I encourage my students to engage in our system if they do not believe in its stability? How do I help my pupils digest President Trump’s bizarre video? As President-elect Joe Biden stated: “A President’s words matter.”
Maybe my twelve-year-old daughter sheds a brighter light on our future. As we watched the news coverage, she asks me: “They knew there would be protests. It was obviously organized on social media. Why didn’t they prepare?”
Perhaps, that is what I tell my students tomorrow. I explain to them that the adults have been acting up, that the leaders are inept. No one envisions such tests to our system. Our belief in American exceptionalism blinded us to threats to our fragile system.
We didn’t imagine a president like Donald Trump.
The government was not ready for a pandemic.
No one succeeded in countering the rampant scourge of misinformation.
Our people were not ready for sacrifice or compromise.
We must learn from this historic time.
We must change.
Our students deserve a brighter future.
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