The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
One Year Later: Insurrection Highlights Importance of Democracy
January 6, 2022
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 was—and still is—a historic day in the history of the United States. On that day, hundreds of people stormed the U.S. capitol building after exiting President Donald Trump cunningly used misinformation and disinformation to foment anger, distrust, and violence within his throngs of supporters. Outraged over a presidential election that was held in accordance with the basic principles of democracy, Trump weaponized his supporters. He gathered hundreds of men and women together, aimed them at the Capitol, and squeezed a trigger that would cause the deaths of five people, more than $30 million in damage, and would ultimately lead to more than 725 people being charged with criminal acts.
One hundred and forty five people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors; 20 people pleaded guilty to felonies. Seventy people have been sentenced; 40 of them received probation while 30 of them received a prison sentence. A year out from this international spectacle, it’s easy to contextualize the events of that Wednesday afternoon within the larger global fight for democracy. In the same way that the election of Trump showed that the democratic process can lead to poor leadership, the events of January 6, 2021 also highlighted the venomous nature of those who refuse to concede in the face of failure.
January 6, 2021, was a wakeup call for America. Yes, this is a first-world nation with plenty of financial resources, a clear class system, and a functioning democracy, but in some ways we are not unlike any other nation in this world.
For the last 12 years, the despotic National Party ruled Honduras with an iron fist after a deadly coup supported by the military and corporate interests was able to depose former President Manuel Zelaya. What would follow was more than a dozen years of corrupt rule by a party beholden to corporations, the wealthy, and private interests rather than the people. Two unconstitutional elections would take place in that time and the National Party was able to keep power through fear, intimidation, violence, forced disappearances, and disinformation. Honduras became a nation filled with stark income and class inequality, gang violence, narco-trafficking, and blatant collusion between government and corporations.
In November, however, that reign of terror ended with the election of Xiomara Castro of the LIBRE Party. Throughout 2021, a staggering 25 candidates for office—all opposed to the National Party—were killed in a clear campaign to quash any sense of dissent. Millions of Hondurans across the country allowed their vote to be their voice and voted overwhelmingly for new leadership and a government that will (hopefully) be free of corruption, violence, corporate manipulation, and despotism.
In Burma, February 1, 2021, was the beginning of yet another reign of terror in the country as a violent military group took control of the nation. Since then, more than 1,300 people have been killed and more than 11,000 politicians, journalists, and dissenters have been arrested. All of this is happening in addition to the genocide of the Rohingya people in Burma.
As we contemplate the repercussions of the January 6 insurrection and what it means for democracy, we are also called to reconcile ourselves with the fact that the democratic process is one that must be protected. Whether the January 6 insurrection, the dysfunctional rule of the National Party in Honduras, or the military coup in Burma, we have a moral mandate to ensure that those who wish to manipulate democracy are punished and that we protect the rights of every individual to participate in a fair election process free of intimidation, fear, and violence.
UUSC is thoroughly committed to this mandate, one that we are currently pursuing through actively supporting true democracy around the world. January 6 is a historic day because it demonstrates how the fundamental principles of democracy can be ignored for the sake of political partisanship. It’s also a day that reminds us that we are all called into the work of keeping our democracy vibrant and accessible to each and every one of us.
Image Credit: iStock—ninjaMonkeyStudio