As neo-Nazis, antisemites, deluded conspiracy theorists and determined seditionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the world looked on in horror. Bent on insurrection, the mob came within minutes of murdering, or at least critically injuring, American democracy.
They did not succeed, and for that, civilization as a whole, and the American Jewish community in particular, can be eternally grateful.
While the FBI and Department of Justice continue to round up the ringleaders and smash the right-wing domestic terror infrastructure, the rest of us should reflect on that dangerous moment in U.S. history, what it portends and what we as citizens must do going forward.
One thing is clear. Democracy works for America’s Jews. The enemies of democracy are, by definition, enemies of the Jews, and we must be on guard as never before.
Consider the now infamous image of one of the Capitol terrorists wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, with “Staff” printed on the back. Though it would be incorrect to say this person represented the thinking of every Capitol invader, the mob’s easy tolerance of someone like him suggests their movement has a big antisemitism problem.
Thankfully, the man in the sweatshirt was arrested by federal authorities. But thousands of his confederates remain free, and many have vowed to keep up their violent assault on America.
As Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl notes in her sobering essay in our paper this week, a shockingly high number of Americans polled approve of the violence visited on the Capitol. Her solution is accountability, rooting out groups and individuals bent on violence, depriving them of funding and exposing them to public condemnation.
That will protect our nation in the short run. But the deep rifts that led to this crisis need equally deep healing.
Meanwhile, we rejoice that the nation survived the stress test of Jan. 6. This week, when Joe Biden and the Bay Area’s own Kamala Harris were sworn in as the new president and vice president, the transfer of power, while lamentably unpeaceful this time, was effected. Our democracy showed its resiliency.
American Jews do not take for granted our good fortune to be here in this land and to play such an important part in its story. If anything good can come of the Jan. 6 terror attack, it is this: We will never take lightly our responsibility to serve as citizen shomrim — guardians — of the American experiment that has allowed us to thrive.