A Letter to Charlie

6 January 2021
Davis, CA

Dear Charlie,

What a day. One to remember for all of us. I write to you on days like this so that I have something to show you when you’re older and ask questions. You’re 7 now, and you’ve spent most of the afternoon with your grandparents, working on building a tabletop game and playing Zelda. Grandpa plays a solid Link, it’s true. That’s what I want you to remember about today.

But it’s not the only thing that happened.

For the last three hours, there’s been an armed insurrection at United States Capitol, lead by a group of seditious rioters driven by the rhetoric of the President of the United States. I can’t stress to you enough how disquieting this is. In my 42 years, nothing like this has ever happened. The Capitol Police were assaulted, and at least eight of them were injured. A woman was shot and killed during the incident.

The Senators and Congresspeople and their staffs, and the professional staff of the Capitol and her houses had to be evacuated to shelters via secret tunnels. The Vice President was whisked from the chamber by the Secret Service. Offices were defiled, the Speaker’s podium stolen from her office. These actions are the actions of despots, tyrants and fascists. They are weak cowards who rule by threat because they have no ideas that last on their own. They govern by threat because it’s all they know.

I cannot tell you how distressed I am by these events, taking place in your home town, in the place I have called home for more than 20 years, almost half my life. I have always felt that the American way of governance was unique among the democracies of the world, and that that government belonged to the people, designed with checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power by tyrants. The last four years have given the lie to that principle, and it has killed something in me to watch our nation wane so in the last four years.

I don’t know what comes next.

As I write this, and rewrite this, and rewrite this, our leadership is trying to put things back to right. Congress has been cleared, and they are proceeding to certify the presidential election. Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20th at noon, as is described in the Constitution.

We ought to be a nation of laws. We ought to be a nation of equal protection — and responsibility — under the law, but we are not. Had the mob today had black or brown skin, they would have been met with the same force that horrified us this summer. But, because this mob was white, the Capitol Police didn’t shoot, didn’t have riot shields, didn’t fire rubbet bullets.

There will always be a percentage of Americans who are white supremacist. Any society sufficiently large will decide to fragment and fracture to protect some magical opinion of purity that is absent fron reality. I had hoped that this ignorant and bigoted behavior was as much on the wane now as it was twenty years ago. Instead, the current moment is full of those who will stoke those fires of resentment and fear based on ignorance and bigotry.

I don’t have an answer for what to do with these people. I don’t think anyone does.

But I know this much: as long as there are those committed to democratic rule here in the United States, there will be a shred of that dream alive somewhere. We have a nation together, these states, of which you have seen half in your short life. We can stand for decency, we can stand for science and knowledge and technology, we can stand up to bullies, we can stand up to tyrants.

We’re not the authority we once were, and we are at odds with ourselves over the very basics of what democratic society are. While this fight goes on, we cannot do the big things we need to do as a nation to lead the world again.

I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime. The last nine months have felt like so many lifetimes.

But I know that we are capable of greatness, if only we can live up to it. And so often lately, we have failed to live up to our own ideals. As we talk about often, though, tomorrow can be different. We can wake up and make better decisions. We can do more, try more, read more, learn more, experiment more, write more, build more.

Democracy is a process, son. Society is a process. We get up, we live those ideals, we go to bed, we do it again. Each and every day. Every day is a chance to make better choices. To lift up, to promote, to unite, to better us all.

And tomorrow’s another day.

I love you. Always.

Dad