There's no escaping the fact that on Jan. 6 five people died over a lie. This is indisputable.
The president of the United States spawned the first lie, insisting falsely that it was only widespread fraud and theft that kept him from a landslide election victory on Nov. 3. Others repeated it. The next lie came when the president told his supporters repeatedly that Congress or the vice president could overturn the will of voters even though they are constitutionally bound to certify states' Electoral College results. Again, the lie was repeated by those angling for the president's favor, fearful of his wrath or just posturing for political advantage.
So it was that thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 certain that the future of the presidency and fair elections somehow rested in their hands, that if they only protested loud enough or fought hard enough the indisputable facts would somehow bend to their will.
Then the president lied again, telling his supporters at the end of a rambling, grievance-laden call to arms at the National Mall that "we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue ... to the Capitol." Of course, the president didn't go with the crowd, nor did he appear to care much what happened to it. Instead, he went back to the safety of the White House and, according to news reports, watched as an insurrection broke out and his supporters clashed violently with police, leading to five deaths as he rebuffed pleas to make a statement calling for peace and instead phoned friendly senators, urging them to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College results.
Plenty of questions remain about the security failures and specific plots at play on Jan. 6, but we know what happened: A group of Trump supporters motivated by the president's lies mounted an unprecedented insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.
So where do we go from here, amid dueling appeals for unity and accountability? This is not only a question Congress must grapple with in the days and weeks to come, but one we as a community also need to face. After all, the Humboldt GOP held repeated "stop the steal" rallies in the lead-up to the carnage of Jan. 6, fanning the flames that erupted in the Capitol, and some of its members traveled to D.C. for the Jan. 6 protests, though there's no indication any participated in the violence there. And the president's repeated lies have penetrated our local discourse with the falsehoods that COVID-19 is a hoax, the election was stolen and other such nonsense regularly entering the fray.
And the real truth is Trump isn't the cause of this pervasive peddling of lies and disinformation — its roots stretch back to birtherism and death panels, if not much further. Trump was simply the accelerant at the scene of the arson that ultimately desecrated our Capitol and threatens to set our democracy ablaze, as politicians have increasingly used lies and fear to stoke divisions, distrust and hate.
So here's how we go forward as a local community: We value facts, evidence and experts, and condemn those who do not. We tell the truth and respect those who do the same. We value all people and don't tolerate dehumanizing rhetoric or politics built on fear.
To the 21,770 Humboldt County residents who voted for Donald Trump, please know this is not a condemnation of conservative principles. If you want to have fact-based conversations about the tax code, immigration reform, COVID restrictions, election security, the defense budget or whatever else, we welcome that. And fortunately for you, recent history has shown that honest, realistic people on the losing side of an election have recourse in this democracy. After all, when Democrats lost the presidency in 2016 they didn't insist it was stolen or stage an armed insurrection, they licked their wounds, knitted hats, marched peacefully, organized and went on to retake the Senate, House and White House.
If, however, you hold your allegiance to Donald Trump, perceived grievances and a fact-free discourse above the basic principles that hold honesty and objective truths as the bedrock of a functioning democracy, we're done. If your response to the wreckage in the Capitol is to talk about Black Lives Matter protests, if you insist COVID-19 is a media hoax or a bad flu, if you spout state's rights in one breath only to push to overturn the election's results approved by state legislatures in the next because of some imaginary fraud, well, we're done trying to reason with you or valuing your opinions.
It's time for the rest of us to rebuild a discourse in this nation that centers around objective facts, common decency and mutual respect. We've now seen exactly where the alternative leads.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the Journal's arts and features editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follower her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.
Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.
Kimberly Wear (she/her) is the Journal's digital editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extention 323, or email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wear.