The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
By Jill Sunday Bartoli
Good news for the New Year. More than 150 people rallied on Jan. 6 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg to remember the violent attack on our U.S. Capitol in 2021. They condemned the lies that fed that attack, and the homegrown terrorists who continue to defy our Constitution, rule of law and the will of the majority of our citizens.
It was exhilarating to be among fellow citizens who refuse to have their voices silenced or personal freedoms taken away, and who believe we have a democracy worth standing up for.
Shamaine Daniels, last year’s Democratic candidate for central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, reminded us that this is no time to celebrate.
“This is a reminder of the moment that American democracy saw its weakest moment in U.S. history,” she said.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, agreed, telling the crowd that “this is a reminder of how fragile democracy is. You are here because you understand an important American truth: Democracy requires something of us. It requires us to be vigilant. It requires us to not just be spectators. It requires us to not just sit at home and think once you vote, you did everything you need to do.”
The passionate call to action of speakers and the rally’s organizers — the 10th District Network, Hershey Indivisible and Cumberland Valley Rising — reminds us of the work ahead.
Our democracy has held against election deniers, lies and propaganda, a violent insurrection, a “freedom” caucus that orchestrates violence and chaos. But the future will demand the commitment of all of us who want truth and civility in our government, and honest representation.
We, the people, cannot be silent in the face of lies and propaganda aimed at dividing us, fueling anger, hatred, and violence, and destroying the very foundation of a free and fair democracy—a democracy that serves all of its citizens with honesty, integrity, and compassion.
Whose freedom does the “Freedom Caucus” fight for? The majority of our citizens value women’s rights, free and fair elections, majority rule, and free public education in schools that represent our richly diverse democracy—schools that foster the open, critical thinking vital for all citizens in a democracy.
Look at the votes of “freedom” caucus members. They voted against the majority of us: banning women’s freedom, voting for voter ID laws that restrict voting, voting against full public school funding and in favor of schools segregated by race and class that do not foster critical thinking about our richly diverse society.
Like all would-be dictators, they ban books, ban individual personal freedom, and label anything that builds unity, compassion, and deeper understanding as socialist.
It sounds like “freedom” to tear apart the very fabric of our democracy — freedom to maintain the vastly unequal status quo they profit from. Freedom to wield power and create chaos. And freedom to silence the cries of our most vulnerable citizens.
This is not who we are. As moderate, democratic, freedom loving Republicans, Democrats and Independents, we need to tell our legislators what to do in our name.
It is their well-paid job to represent us fairly. So, for our New Year’s resolution, let’s make a list of the things we want our representatives to do—and not do. Then write a letter to them and visit them in their local or Harrisburg office. Yes, they do have two, nice offices that we, the people, pay for.
Research tells us that, if a legislator gets just five personal letters from constituents, they pay attention to the issue. So, get four like-minded friends to each write a letter about something you all care about, then follow up with a group visit to share your solutions. And take your kids or grandkids with you so they can see that this is what democracy looks like—in action.
An alarming 60% of our U.S. citizens can expect to spend at least one year below the poverty line. Fiona Hill (2021) found that the U.S. super rich 719 people increased their wealth by 50 percent to $4.56 trillion from March 2020 to April 2021, thanks to the Trump tax cuts and deregulation. I’m looking for four friends to join me to write letters and make visits.
It matters what each of us do to defend our democracy. Resistance to violence is always good, as is defending those who need our help, as is calling out lies and those who twist the truth to control and keep power. Join together with others and make your voices heard.
Opinion contributor Jill Sunday Bartoli writes from Carlisle, Pa. Her work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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