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These are days of high anxiety. Two major threats compete for our attention: 1. When are we going to get vaccinated and live in peace? and 2. Are we going to have a society to live peacefully in, given the civil unrest demonstrated so shockingly on Jan. 6? 

There’s not much we can do about the seeming randomness of vaccine availability. But, there is something we can do about the civil unrest and the anguish it has caused. 

We can speak up about what took place at the Capitol building, with our neighbors, family members, in the barbershop and in the post-office line. 

Civil debate and compromise, which are necessary for democracy to survive, are at stake. Keeping silent doesn’t restore peace; it postpones it indefinitely. 

The day after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, I was talking to a woman I’ve recently befriended in my neighborhood. Her son wanted to go for a walk, but his mother said she “told him no, to stay home.” My friend is African American. She was afraid for her son to go out alone with such tension in the air. I felt keenly my white privilege. 

A few days later, I was in a mattress store being served by the salesclerk, who is Black. We were the only two people in the store. As we were concluding the sale, he assured me that I would be sleeping better now with my new mattress. I decided to risk exposing my politics. 

I said, “Actually, I’ve been sleeping a lot better since last Saturday” (the day Biden had been declared the winner). The salesclerk gave me a long look. 

“You have to be careful who you talk to,” he said, not joking. 

I replied, “It’s OK. You’re talking to a Democrat.” 

His face relaxed slowly. He told me about the anguish he has felt for the past four years, of a close friendship with a Trump supporter he had to finally break off. 

“How could I, an African American man, be friends with someone who supports a racist?” he said. 

Even though Biden was elected, the salesclerk was still concerned about the more than 74 million Americans who still supported Trump despite his racist core. Like my neighbor, he does not feel safe. His last words to me were “Be careful.” 

One of the Capitol Hill insurrectionists shouted a disturbing declaration to the cameras as he was caught up in the surge of the mob: “We’re good people.” 

We watched as these “good people” smashed windows, trashed and looted the offices of their representatives, and called for the vice president to be hanged. Just good, patriotic Americans, who tried to prevent Joe Biden, a man elected by more than 81 million people, from being certified by Congress. 

We need to be clear: We will not allow mob rule. And to our youth watching, they need to see us roll up our sleeves and clean up the mess that some “good people” have made of our democracy. 

— Hersh lives in DeLand. 


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