Healing — It’s Not What You Think
Opinion writer Elliot Ackerman is a former Marine. In this morning’s New York Times, he writes, “Not long after the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, a video began circulating among veterans I know. It is a roughly 40-minute continuous shot that moves from the breach on the western staircase of the Capitol to the shooting of one of the rioters, Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, outside the Speaker’s Lobby. When sending it, many of the veterans asked, ‘What does this remind you of?’ I watched with my heart in my throat — the exhilaration of the participants, the chaos of a historic event playing out around you, the violence and latent presence of madness; it reminded me of combat.
“I say this not to draw a political equivalency between insurrectionists and men and women in uniform — though some of the insurrectionists have turned out to be veterans — but rather to place a focus on the level of insanity we witnessed last Wednesday.”
A battle-proven veteran calls what happened at The Capital insanity. I agree. And there may be more.
“Violence,” he affirms, “has a long tail.”
It does. Think a moment, Beloved. Does it not make perfect sense that every one of us who has experienced some form of violence — even as removed as Saturday morning cartoons on mute — is, because of these events in our country, is reliving it to one degree or another? It does.
Marine Ackerman again, “After watching the video, I felt depleted. We have, each in our own way, tried to make sense of what happened politically, with impeachment proceedings underway and bipartisan condemnation of the siege of the People’s House. However, a solely political response to what occurred is insufficient. It requires an emotional understanding as well.”
It’s the necessary emotional healing I’d like to address this morning. Healing the heart takes time. It also takes space. It also takes quiet. It also takes the cessation of whatever is causing it to ache.
My practice is often a microcosm reflecting the larger world. Clients this week have mentioned that they’re overwhelmed, paralyzed, overeating, oversleeping, over-worrying, over-Facebooking just to compensate for the added stress that is attendant upon each one of us who has borne witness to the events of last week. It’s the emotional fallout, an emotional hangover, if you will.
At the same time as most of us are attempting to tell ourselves what really happened in Washington last week so that we stand a chance of processing it and putting it behind us, some dastardly Republican spinmeisters are doing all that they can to mask, to enshroud, to obfuscate those selfsame events.
“In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like Antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election. … But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Trump.”
This only creates confusion. It’s no wonder folks don’t know what to believe. One hundred percent of reality has always been perception, but there’s perception of actual events, and interpretation of those same events. Perception and interpretation are not now, nor will they ever be the same, Beloved.
Further clouding our perceptions are interpretations from the likes of Josh Hawley and an insightful essay by Katherine Stewart, author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.” Ms. Stewart has reported on the religious right for more than a decade. She writes,
“Mr. Hawley isn’t against elites per se. He is all for an elite, provided that it is a religiously righteous elite. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, and he clerked for John Roberts, the chief justice. Mr. Hawley, in other words, is a successful meritocrat of the Federalist Society variety. His greatest rival in that department is the Princeton debater Ted Cruz. They are résumé jockeys in a system that rewards those who do the best job of mobilizing fear and irrationalism. They are what happens when callow ambition meets the grotesque inequalities and injustices of our age.”
His miniature lens on the complexities of our multifold reality is religious righteousness. He views his mission as taking back the United States for Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. I’ve known Jesus for decades and, believe me, he’d never countenance such a thing. Not in a billion, squillion, gazillion years. My kingdom is not of this earth. Sound familiar? This was Jesus’ answer to the Sicarii, of Iscariot fame, when they wanted him to claim political power. Mr. Hawley claims his stance is legitimate because of the Pelagian Heresy, that of 5th century notoriety. Personally, I consider this the taking of Pelagius’ name in vain.
None of these things address the needed emotional healing of the collective trauma we share and the individual traumas that are reactivated. None.
Sadly, another article, upon first sight, lifted my hopes, but soon after, dashed them forever to the rocks below. It was about presidential pardons. My heart: Pardon? Yes! Clemency, reduction of punishment, healing, forgiveness, release! Then this:
“The brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies. … [T]he pardon power remains one of the last and most likely outlets for quick unilateral action by an increasingly isolated, erratic president.”
The article exposed that blatant political posturing, jockeying, deniability, plausibility, promising, denying, and all types of other machination people put themselves through even to be considered for a pardon. Not to mention the beaucoup bucks involved. Not only that, but of course, Mr. My-Way-or-The-Highway Trump is going his own way on this as well eschewing the protocols of the Office of Pardons left, right, and center.
Net/net? If it doesn’t benefit Trump, his family, his brand, or his political prospects, you’re not even in the queue for consideration. See what I mean? Dashed to the rocks below.
But, there is a seed here, a seed for potential healing, one that Christians in particular tend to apply too harshly, too early, and that is the seed of pardon, of clemency, of forgiveness. We need to forgive the mob. And before you go squawking at me, we do, and we don’t need to do it till we’re damn good and ready.
One way to get ready is to understand what happened. That, in itself, is taking time because of all the clamor. That’s one of the reasons I resonated to Elliot Ackerman’s forty-minute video. Sure, it’s only one person’s view through the lens, but still it’s accurate, factual, in that it represents at least what that documentarian saw that day. Facts, Beloved, are our friends.
Manhattanite Valerie Gilbert calls herself The Meme Queen of QAnon. “There is no question that QAnon, which began in 2017 with a series of anonymous posts on the 4chan online message board by ‘Q,’ a person purporting to be a high-ranking government insider, has outgrown its roots on the far-right fringes. It is now a big-tent conspiracy theory community that includes left-wing yoga moms, anti-lockdown libertarians and ‘Stop the Steal’ Trumpists. QAnon believers are young and old, male and female, educated and not. Every community in America has its fair share of them — dentists and firefighters and real estate agents who disappeared down a social media rabbit hole one day and never came back.”
As I read that last, I kept hearing the voice of Mark Williams in my mind’s ear. He played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter film franchise. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he explodes at his youngest child, Ginny. “What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain?” [J.K. Rowling’s deplorable transphobia aside, there is wisdom in Mr. Weasley’s statement.]
Q has gone silent and deep since the election. Valerie Gilbert, stretching her convictions as far as she may, continues to treat American political activity as an online mystery game. She prides herself on figuring out yet another piece daily. A “wide range of people have ended up in Q’s thrall. [H]er story hints at how hard it will be to bring those people back to reality.”
Because there’s been no healing, Beloved. Healing is required here. Healing, true healing, starts with the facts. Then it addresses the emotions those same facts cause.
“What attracts Ms. Gilbert and many other people to QAnon isn’t just the content of the conspiracy theory itself. It’s the community and sense of mission it provides. New QAnon believers are invited to chat rooms and group texts, and their posts are showered with likes and retweets. They make friends, and are told that they are not lonely Facebook addicts squinting at zoomed-in paparazzi photos, but patriots gathering ‘intel’ for a righteous revolution. This social element also means that QAnon followers aren’t likely to be persuaded out of their beliefs with logic and reason alone.”
Trauma experienced by one person is almost always easier when its burden is shared with others who receive it without judgment, without rancor, without reactivity, but with witness. The reason for this is that our personal traumas are never the same, even if the facts look the same. We all encode things differently because all of our experiences differ.
When we can share our trauma over the events of January 6th, it will foster a sense of community just like the one QAnon has fostered. Then, when out of the community care arises a sense of mission — even if it’s just that we never want such a thing to happen again — and people agree to act upon it, the trauma will be forgiven, and never forgotten.
One of the things causative to human thriving, Beloved, is meaning. We will give meaning to these events, and that meaning will sustain us into action. Do your own work, then help others do theirs. We will get through this, and we will come out better on the other side with healed hearts and a sense of purpose that can and will renew this blessed nation of ours.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com