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  • Rabbi Edward Friedman

Thoughts on the Events at the Capitol this Week

If you look at the back of a dollar bill, you will see an image of the Great Seal of the United States. It is embossed on every official document, placed over the entrance to U.S. Embassies around the world, incorporated into the seal of the President of the United States, and used in many other official capacities. The central image on the seal is the bald eagle, holding both arrows and olive branches in its talons. In its beak is a scroll unfurled with the famous motto E pluribus unum, out of many, one. Originally, simply referring to the union of the thirteen British colonies into one United States, that motto, at least for me and for many others, is a statement of what makes our country strong and truly great. In spite of the many nationalities from which we stem, the countless religious traditions in which we believe, the diversity of races and cultures that make up the fabric of this country, and above all, in spite of the wide range of political affiliations, opinions, and positions of our people, we affirm that we are all part of one united nation. Above all, the U.S. Capitol symbolizes that unity as the elected officials, Senators and Representatives of our now 50 states, who represent us, “we the people,” convene in its halls to do the nation's business.

The mob of insurrectionists who desecrated that sacred Temple of democracy on Wednesday afternoon, in a futile attempt to overturn or to delay the confirmation of the people's will in choosing a new president and vice president for this nation, is an outrage and an attempt to negate the fundamental principles of our country. The fact that this insurgency was incited by the one who, above all, is charged with upholding our Constitution and enforcing its laws, is nothing less than appalling. As misguided as most of us feel this group was that swarmed into the Capitol, that same Constitution gives them rights to speak out, to assemble, to protest what they feel is not right. It does not, however, allow them to break the law, to destroy property, to riot, and to interfere with the democratic process of our Legislative Branch.

I join my voice to countless others around our country in deploring this despicable act, the loss of life (as I write, it is now five people who have died), and the negative values embodied in this mob with its Confederate flags, hangman's nooses, and other reminders of hatred from the troubled past and present of our nation.

We join people of faith around this country in praying for our nation and on behalf of the duly elected leaders of our country, grateful for their safety, and hopeful that out of this horrible event, those among them who facilitated and encouraged this outrage, will moderate their views and their rhetoric. We pray for the recovery of those officers injured in the melee and above all for the restoration of justice and decency in our political world and throughout our country. It is with great hope that we welcome the decision of the people of the United States, unquestionably affirmed early Thursday morning in the presence of the U.S. Congress, to choose new leaders who we pray will work to achieve the noble ideals enshrined in our founding documents and symbolized by that majestic building on Capitol Hill. Out of the diversity of all the inhabitants of this country may we go forth boldly as one to meet the new year.

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