Tonight more than ever we need to be Patriots with a capital P. It’s easy to feel helpless at the events that unfolded just east of our campuses today, but we can be of service to our communities and our nation.
To be clear, we are living through a moment in our American history that we can scarcely comprehend as it unfolds. Network news outlets show our US Capitol building overtaken while our leaders exercise a cherished ritual of our democracy. They are using words such as “coup attempt” and “insurrection.” And they are reminding us that America has not experienced such a seizure of its Capitol building since the British sacked it in the War of 1812.
Many of us are also struggling to reconcile the dissonance of this response with that of protests that occurred in Washington last year. Those legal acts of civil disobedience provoked far more violent and forceful law enforcement actions. We are left with far more questions than answers tonight.
History in the moment rarely makes sense, and it can easily evoke intense emotions that invite reactions of raw passion. But the fact remains that today’s events are still a shared experience for all of us as Americans, even though we view them as a deeply divided nation. Through it all, we are all still in this American experience together.
What can we do as a university community? First, we must stay safe, take care of ourselves, and look out for each other in this moment of extreme volatility. Second, we have to remind ourselves and each other that we will make it through this and come out a better nation – because we always do.
And finally, we are a university, which gives us both great privilege and a great responsibility to observe, learn, teach, and act as first interpreters of moments such as these, with all of their violence, complexity, contradictions, and ambiguities.
The nation is struggling to understand what is happening, how to react, and how to move beyond this. Academic communities like Mason’s are at their best when they step into moments like these to offer perspective, clarity, and when necessary, hard truths that force us to grow even as we seek to heal.
So tonight, be safe and be well. And when this moment has passed, Patriots, let’s get back to work, doing what we do best.