I fondly remember standing at attention next to my grammar school desk, with right hand over my heart, and reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance,” along with my classmates each morning.
As the world entered the 1950s, everyone seemed to be a proud American, and why not? Our country had been instrumental in defeating the worst enemies the world had ever known. As time went on, we studied American history and government. We came to understand, by the founders implementing three separate branches of government, the U.S. governmental structure enabled, and supported, the “rule of law.”
Yet, as we grew up, it was not hard to notice how some wealthy and connected individuals were able to bend the rules to suit their purpose. My first lesson came as a “scrub” starting out at Walter Reed Junior High School.
We had to run for classes, which seemed like a monumental task for a 13-year-old. But I had done it, and just signed into my 6th period class, when through the classroom door came the principal, with a young man named Ross in tow. Seems the young man’s father was an important person in North Hollywood at the time, and Mr. Principal was giving Ross some special help getting through the process.
The class was full, but not a problem if you are the Principal. He simply removed me from the class roster, added Ross in my place, then looked me straight in the eye, and told me to “figure it out.” Now when something similar happens to you, would you allow it to make you a disgruntled individual, or could you accept it as a life lesson and learn from it?
Which brings me to Jan. 6, 2021.
While I do not think anyone wants to argue riots in D.C. are acceptable events, the line that divides protests from riots is thin. Over the past year we have witnessed numerous gatherings where which side of the line a person was standing on was determined by the observer’s agreement, or displeasure, with the group’s cause. What made the events of Jan. 6 so different? The outcome was unexpected by almost everyone. So, now might be the opportune time to learn from what happened.
To start with, 2020 had been a very frustrating year. Between COVID, lockdowns and politics, everyone’s nerves were frazzled. But when the “rule of law” was shown to be unraveling before the public’s eyes, I equate what happened to poking a hibernating bear. We experienced a year of hearing about our governmental intelligence services spying on a candidate’s campaign. We watched numerous high-level justice department officials lying to Congress and the public. We saw the FBI create convictions of political enemies, and through it all no one was held accountable.
Why? Because voters started to accept this level of behavior as normal, and each occurrence did not sufficiently poke the bear to wake it up.
Then came the presidential election. Bypassing all the suspicious activities, the public was made aware of state officials who decided not to follow the law as written by their state legislatures, and as required by the U.S. Constitution. The remaining elected officials took no remedial action and taking the issue to the courts provided no relief, either. Another poke at the bear, but the bear was still snoring. What happened to the three separate but equal branches of government? What has caused the concept to fail?
Then came the idea of demonstrating in D.C., and the plans were established and made known at least a month prior to Jan. 6.
My impression was, Donald Trump supporters felt if they provided a large enough show of solidarity with the president, Congress would be obligated to fix at least those items that violated the U.S. Constitution. But they found out they were wrong, and this time the poke was strong enough to wake the bear.
So, even before the sun went down, senators and Congress members of both parties were already on the small screen, mouthing what seemed to be a prescriptive condemnation of an attack on our democracy, while admitting to experiencing a level of fear and not putting forth a single effort to correct anything. Of course, the reason the situation drew so much ire this time around, as opposed to what we heard when a federal courthouse was burned last summer, was because it was directly pointed at the elite, who feel they are above it all.
The most important lesson, for the entire new year and years to come, remains for the U.S. Congress to implement. If Congress expects to hold the respect of their constituency, members must follow and defend the Constitution. When Congress members cannot get their programs implemented in a transparent constitutional manner, they are heading down the wrong path and should expect to be out of office soon.
We are approaching a critical period of our nation’s history. If we do not return to being a country where the “rule of law” is embraced and followed, we will lose the precious freedoms we hold dear.
If you want to be part of the solution, you need to throw off the cloak of hyper partisanship, start looking at issues and problems instead of personalities and identities, and return to the values established by our founders. They were forward looking and left us a republic with three separate branches of government, to help the country stay out of the quagmire, which we currently find is ankle deep.
Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.