Reparations start with letting go of our myths

Part of an occasional series on truth telling and repair

Riot at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. Photo: Ted Eytan, Creative Commons license.

The tragic and horrific Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol offers an important lesson about how strongly we hold to our sacred national stories and myths.

The day of the attack, President-elect Joe Biden said: “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have made similar arguments. Implicit in their speeches is this affirmative statement: “We are a good and decent people.”

Some commentators are pushing back, saying the “this-is-not-who-we-are” argument denies of our history and current reality.

Omar Wasow, writing in the Washington Post, said: “A better way to make sense of the news of the past few days — not only the violent occupation in Washington but also the historic Senate victories by Democrats in Georgia — is as a long-run contest between two competing American traditions: one committed to preserving the status quo racial hierarchy and one fighting to advance equality.

We face a crucial choice: Which American tradition do we follow?

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