I am Canadian, eh. But I grew up next to the American border. I remember berry picking in Point Roberts, shopping in Bellingham malls. My high school competed in American-hosted events. My bucket list of places to visit includes some in the States. Also, I have American relatives.
Some days, I watch American news. January 6, 2021, was one of those days. I am watching again today.
Since 2016, I have learned not to make comments on American news. People castigate you, and honestly, who needs that stress? I'm not even American. Eh. Plus, I often remind myself, 'that' (whatever the 'that' of the day might be) is not your fight, Leigh. You are not a politician. You are a writer. And you want to live in peace. And you don't want to lose readers because you mouthed off about your political views. And, you don't actually need to post this thing which you want so badly to post.
Except, I believe in democracy. I don't think it is perfect, but I prefer it to other systems. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that, which seems to be the downside to monarchies and definitely to communism. So, I believe, and I, like many of the outsiders looking on, have to wonder how many years of democracy the United States has left. Before you yell at me for saying as much, you should know that the thought offends me, angers me. I want better than that for my southern neighbors.
Last year, I cried as I watched, and listening to the testimonies, I find myself crying again today. Right now, I just heard a Capital Police Officer say, "Everybody has a job to do in protecting democracy." That I believe.
I believe politicians shouldn't be stopped on the way to their office and told there has been a bomb threat. I believe they shouldn't have to don gas masks in their place of work. I believe they should not have to fear lynch mobs inside their hallways. They should not have to tell their spouses where their will is located. They should not have to wonder about the safety of their visiting relatives or their staffers. They should not have to barricade their doors against a lethal mob or hide under their desks in fear.
I would have quit, I think. That was the recurring thought which I have had over the past year. I've quit jobs for much less. I kept thinking, how do you get dressed for work, drive to work, and find the courage to enter that building on September 7, 2021? That is courage. How do you then listen to the Marjory Taylor Greens sitting across the aisle from you and not quit? How do you commit to your job that thoroughly and love your country that much... and not quit? That is impressive.
This year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what bravery looks like. It is more fundamental than I've ever realized. I work part-time for an art school called Bold School. For them, boldness is about colour selection and brushstroke technique and taking risks with your art and with displaying your art. Some days, they interchange the concepts of boldness and bravery and courage, and fair enough. For me, though, I've come to think of bravery as speaking up when it might hurt me. Of getting in my car to go to work when there is a snowstorm forecast. It is being on the right side of an issue even when there might be a personal cost. It is advocating wearing masks even when I don't like it any more than you do. It is voting when none of the candidates are a perfect fit. It is writing about moments which are important to recognize -- even when some might not agree, or might be angered, or might even misunderstand. How else does a writer do their part in protecting democracy?
Today, I stand beside the United States as they are a year out from the Capital riots. I stand with those who condemn those actions. I recognize the bravery of their leaders who went back to work the next day -- both in the chambers and in their capacity as police officers. I stand with democracy.
Say, can you see By the dawn's early light What so proudly we hailed At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars Through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watched, Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare The bombs bursting in air Gave proof through the night That our flag was still there
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave