The first day of testimony in the Congressional hearings into what happened on January 6th fell on the same day as the anniversary of the shooting at my church. On that Sunday morning, a man entered our sanctuary with the stated purpose to kill as many liberals as he could. He believed that we were ruining America, and called us “termites” in the four page manifesto he left in the cab of his truck. The similarities between his rhetoric and that of those who stormed the Capitol are striking. And disturbing, and horrifying, to those of us who have already been through this once (although on a much smaller scale).

I didn’t watch the hearings, or listen to them. The current ubiquitous nature of media coverage makes it next to impossible to completely avoid hearing about things like this, so I knew some of it would get through. It was enough to leave me shaken. The officers’ statements were hard to hear and brought back some deeply unsettling memories. More frightening, though, have been the statements of those who seem determined to ignore, minimize, or justify the actions of that day. That drumbeat has been going on for a while now, and gets a lot of coverage. I expect it to become louder and more insistent as the hearings progress. This both saddens and scares the hell out of me.

I was not physically injured in the attack at my church, but the woman sitting in front of me was, as were others before the attacker was subdued. Two people lost their lives, and many of us live with the aftereffects on a daily basis. I’m still hoping we can all take a step or two back from our current level of tension, but I have to admit that hope is a difficult thing to maintain. Dickinson helps. Sometimes I feel like I am, in her words, in the chillest land, straining to hear the tune without the words, looking for a little warmth. When hope returns, it comes from those close to me and from those who don’t make the news, and I realize that, just as the poem says, it never stopped at all. I’m grateful I can still make out the tune; it steadies me and I think, yeah, we’ll get through this.

I do hope not too much damage is done in the process.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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