In mid-October, Principal Peter Groom addressed the student body regarding the significance of the upcoming election. He recently added to his thoughts to address the actions that took place at the Capitol Building on January 6th and has agreed to share them with the Fenwick Community.
On Tuesday, November 3, our country will hold elections to decide on the future leadership of this nation. We are living in times of fear, uncertainty and tension. This is what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read on the Internet. The election promises to be one that will not be forgotten. How it turns out remains to be seen.
I believe that it is important to know that this is not the first time that we have approached an election with the type of fear, tension and uncertainty that we have today. The elections of 1800 and 1824 had to be decided by the House of Representatives because there was no clear winner once the electoral votes were counted. The election of 1860 led to a catastrophic Civil War which saw as many as three-quarters of a million people die as a result. The election of 2000 ended with the state of Florida in a dispute over how to count ballots.
Political tensions and passions are high right now. It is important to be engaged, it is important to be aware and it is important to participate. In the United States of America, our vote is our voice. Throughout our history, the right to vote has expanded from a small group of property-owning white males to all adult men and women. For generations, people fought, marched, petitioned and advocated for this basic and sacred right for all people to enjoy. Once the votes are counted and the new leaders are installed we come together as a people and move forward for the common good. This election is no different.
There has been much talk about the political environment that we find ourselves in. I know that we are no stranger to this tension. With that being said, we, as Fenwick Friars, must rise above the dissension, mudslinging and hate. We must turn to the Gospel values and the lessons of Jesus to help guide us through these difficult waters.
Going forward, whether it be in the classroom, among friends or on social media, stick to healthy political debate and discussion. Do not give in to hate and division. Do not stoop to name-calling or hate speech. Do not elevate one group of people or devalue another group. Fenwick must be a place where we rise above the current environment of public discourse. We must understand that our similarities are far greater than our differences. We must have a safe environment so all can come to school without fear or hesitation. This starts now and continues long after the election has been decided.
In April of 1865, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia after four long years of war. At times, the conditions, death and destruction were un-fathomable just five years prior. At the conclusion of the meeting, General Grant signaled to his army that the Union troops had won the war. His men erupted in celebration. Grant ordered the celebration to end immediately. He stated that we are all countrymen again and ordered the Union soldiers to provide food and relief to their former adversaries.
This act of reconciliation and hospitality should be a lesson to us all. In the lead up to, during and in the aftermath of this year’s election, we must always remember that we are all countrymen and countrywomen. We all must trust in the election process. We are all Fenwick Friars. Regardless of the outcome, we must treat each other with the dignity and respect that we have learned from the example of Jesus in the Gospels.
From my understanding, our students, as a whole, have honored this message before, during and after the election. If my understanding is correct, I am very proud of our student body. It is unfortunate that the actors on January 6 did not demonstrate the same behavior.
As the weeks passed following the election, the 2020 election process has been under assault in a handful of swing states that were all won by President-elect Biden. Even after the states and the courts had their say on the matter, the assault continued. The speech of division and hate came to a breaking point at our nation’s capital. Not only were the Senate and Congress under attack, but the very foundation of our democracy was as well.
This attack on the Capitol building on the surface can be seen as an incident that was inflamed by a demagogue trying to preserve power. Unfortunately, this view is far too obtuse. The images of Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses were a stark reminder of what motivates certain people. There are underlying issues that our country must face going forward. While I am proud of how our students demonstrated maturity and understanding, I know that we at Fenwick are not immune to some of the changes that must occur.
Until the aftermath of WWI, the United States was the only country in the world that had been steadfast in its commitment to a republican style of democracy. As the 1920's and 30’s unfolded, we saw the dangers of the democratic experiment in countries like Italy and Germany as populist, fascist movements rose to power and they manipulated the democratic systems to become dictator-ships. Never did I think that our own government was as vulnerable as was demonstrated this week.
All Americans suffer due to these events. It does not matter if you are conservative or liberal. The continued hate speech and division pollute great people on all sides of our political spectrum.
Regardless of the situation and circumstances, we must treat each other with the dignity and respect that we have learned from the example of Jesus in the Gospels.