We have been through an unspeakably challenging week. In such times, it is often difficult to discern facts, motives, nuances and to determine the best course of action moving forward. Life is messy and complicated, made more so by calamity. But in the case of this past week, a few truths stand out with absolute clarity.
1. There was an egregious attack on both our national Capitol and on the constitutionally-mandated electoral process on Wednesday, Jan. 6, fomented by, among others, the president of the United States of America.
2. Those who incited and those who participated in this attack must be held accountable.
3. President Trump must not be allowed to escape the consequences of what amounts to a heinous betrayal of the Constitution and his oath to support and defend it. To allow this would not only be a travesty of justice, but would set an unspeakably dangerous precedent.
4. Many who aided and abetted Trump did so knowingly and are fully complicit. They, too, must be held to account.
5. Extraordinary courage was shown by some in the face of this assault on our constitutional republic, including by our own Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. John Curtis.
6. There are those who voted for Trump, many of them our own neighbors, friends and/or family members, who are good people who were genuinely deceived — and we must allow them the grace to be able to come to themselves and change their views without shaming or vilifying them. Can you imagine berating someone whose eyes have been opened and who is finally ready to leave an abusive marriage? And yet we have seen far too much of this happening on social media this past week. Some have even said such things as, “If you ever supported Trump, unfriend me right now. I want nothing to do with you.” This sort of childish, vindictive othering serves no one.
7. Justice must be done, but then our focus, our top priority, must be to heal this horrific divide that threatens to tear our nation, our communities, even our families apart. We cannot continue to view those who disagree with us with derision and contempt. No matter how misguided we believe they are, they are our brothers and sisters. We must learn to listen to each other with genuine respect. We must seek to understand and to address the deep-rooted causes that lead good people to believe baseless conspiracy theories.
Hating on people is not going to solve anything. Nor is just loving them without doing the hard work of figuring out what has gone wrong (and how and where and why), and then working together to try to fix it. This is deep, difficult work. It is messy, and there are no easy answers. Any real solutions will have to address head-on such complicated issues as identity politics, education, media literacy, the seemingly uncontrollable flow of misinformation and disinformation, systemic inequalities, the Pandora’s box of social media, and so on. But we must commit to doing this hard work.
8. Neither progressives nor conservatives have a corner on truth. There is truth and wisdom and commonsense and compassion to be found in both ideologies. But we must avoid extremes on both sides. And we must relearn how to work together and how to compromise (a term that, somewhat inexplicably given our nation’s founding, has become a bit of a dirty word for both sides over the past few years).
We must never again allow partisanship and tribalism to dictate our actions and views. We must embrace nuance and eschew black-and-white/either-or thinking. We must educate ourselves, getting our information from the most credible, balanced, factual sources possible. We must learn to recognize and not allow ourselves to be manipulated by logical fallacies.
We must distinguish between factual reporting and overly-biased commentary, seeking out the former and forgoing the latter. We must be especially wary of talk show hosts/entertainers who profit by manipulating our emotions, exploiting our worst fears, inflaming our passions with name-calling and vitriolic outbursts, and who routinely reduce complex issues to overly-simplistic and extreme sound bites.
If we can acknowledge these truths, and if we can act accordingly — and I truly believe that we can — then we can emerge from this dark period in our history better, stronger, kinder and more clear-eyed than ever before. May God help us.
Sharlee Mullins Glenn founded Mormon Women for Ethical Government in 2017 and served as its executive director until 2019. She currently sits on the external advisory board for Brigham Young University’s civic engagement program.