We are publishing essays all week from San Diegans about last week’s rioting by a mob incited by President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.
We must decide how to handle uncertainty
Byron Harlan is a financial planner who lives in Little Italy.
There’s something about the human mind that craves order. Patterns make people happy. Deviations can make them less so. Chaos breeds anxiety. Order makes people calm. That concept is a basic aspect of behavioral finance, but can apply to other areas of life, including the recent events in Washington, D.C. The breach at the Capitol Building caused people across the nation to experience distress, fear and panic. You could hear it in the voices of the many who called in to television and radio programs. There’s no denying that viewers and listeners were upset, scared and uncertain. The tragic deaths compounded the anxiety. It seemed as if a mob had taken control of the nation’s capital.
Now consider this: When individuals focus on a calamity, it magnifies the event and perhaps gives it greater weight than it deserves. Reporters descend on a scene, live images appear on TV and you can watch a catastrophe in real time. There’s not much context there, just raw, unfiltered and sometimes jarring images. It can be difficult to step back from the situation, but it’s useful to do exactly that.
If viewed from a distance, it’s easier to consider that in time, the magnitude of the breach may not seem as it does today. Think about it. How will you view the story six months from now, in a year, or even two? Will individuals feel as alarmed as some do today? Probably not, because there may be other events that captivate the nation’s attention, that cause people to shudder, worry and fret. That’s exactly the point, because there will always be chaos, it’s a constant. Chaos interrupts order and order follows chaos. It’s always been that way.
We have a saying at my tiny firm: Uncertainty in life is an absolute. It comes without fail. What may be most important is deciding how you react to it, or, more pointedly, how not to react to it.
When security markets tumble, some investors have a tendency to react, and, in the course of doing so, make decisions that can hurt them. Bad idea, because markets tend to reward patient individuals and go higher over time. It’s certainly not always easy to remain calm when your portfolio has just lost a third of its value, but think back to last March. Stocks crashed and plenty of people sold, ran and hid. The crash was the chaos. Today, those same markets are in record territory. Will they stay in this lofty space? No, they will decline again, maybe sharply, then likely go higher. The gyrations can be hard to take, but when viewed from a distance, over time and through the years, a pattern emerges. Events viewed in this context are far easier to tolerate than when viewed microscopically, whether they involve stocks, bonds or political turmoil. So take a deep breath, step away from attending to the chaos, do something that you truly enjoy and know that order will eventually prevail.
We should expect an increase in violence
Pedro Rios is director, U.S.-Mexico Border Program, American Friends Service Committee. He lives in San Diego.
The world collectively witnessed the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of White supremacists loyal to Donald Trump in their attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. Though this failed coup attempt was unprecedented, it was not unexpected. Participants in the siege had been posting their plans for weeks following Trump’s encouragement that they attack the Capitol and disrupt the election results with a violent insurrection. The ideological precept driving these violent actions is unabashed White supremacy, but addressing this might prove difficult as it would mean challenging the core of United States’ national identity.
As recently as October, in its Homeland Threat Assessment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared White supremacist extremists as the “most persistent and lethal” domestic terror threat to the United States. The DHS and the Department of Justice similarly concluded in an earlier joint bulletin in 2017 that the “White Supremacist Extremist Movement Continues to Pose Threat of Violence to US Law Enforcement.” In 2006, the FBI published a bulletin detailing how White supremacists had infiltrated police forces to encourage recruitment of White supremacists into strategic law enforcement positions. In 2005 and 2006, extremist elements of White supremacist militia groups were also infiltrating anti-immigrant Minutemen vigilantes, as our American Friends Service Committee staff documented in Arizona.
At the top echelons of government power, Trump formalized his violent White supremacist agenda at the White House by appointing advisers who have sympathized with racist extremist groups. These included Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. Miller remains a senior adviser and is credited with drafting repressive immigration policies, including banning people of the Muslim faith from entering the United States, and separating migrant children from their parents. It’s no surprise that the union for the largest and most unaccountable law enforcement agency in the country, the Border Patrol, would publicly support Trump for president, a first of its kind endorsement. The Border Patrol’s origin as a law enforcement agency is itself sullied with a racist past, as initial recruits included Texas Rangers and private vigilantes who expressly and violently targeted Mexicans in borderland communities.
Trump’s sanctioning and promotion of White supremacy as an acceptable mainstream ideology has led to horrifying acts of violence, including massacres, shootings and other despicable crimes. This is consistent with Trump’s infatuation with genocidal U.S. President Andrew Jackson, whose unlawful executive decisions led to tens of thousands of Native peoples dying horrifically in the Trail of Tears.
As Trump’s tenure ends, his influence has stoked extremists into a neofascist fury. We should expect and prepare for more violence. Militia groups are threatening more actions as they remain emboldened by the narrative that they successfully stormed the Capitol.
Solutions to successfully challenging White supremacy must include a reconfiguration of how to express power through a worldview that accounts for the suffering our communities have experienced over the course of generations, often at the hands of government enablers. This must come from Black, Brown and Indigenous people at the forefront of organizing in our communities.
Democracy must be preserved in America
William A. Virchis is CEO of Virco Enterprises, the former director of visual and performing arts at the Sweetwater Union High School District, and professor emeritus and artistic director at Southwestern Community College Theatre Department. He lives in Chula Vista.
The separatist movement is part of the coup d’état protocols in other countries, especially in Latin America. Where was our security system, especially our national security system, last Wednesday? It failed us. This was a treasonable act. National defense security systems, especially those the president has to deal with, failed big time. If there’s a bright light in this, it’s that only two people died directly because of the conflict and that three other people died because of separate medical emergencies.
Looking through another lens, it could’ve been worse. The business of the electoral votes went on and confirmed Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. You can’t stop a great democracy. This is a test of our forefathers’ vision of our Constitution and the strength of its words. The question we have to answer is, When is enough enough? And how do we fix it? It’s not just the words, it’s the actions I need to take to right the wrongs.
In a few days, right where this terrible event happened, Joe Biden will take an oath and be sworn in as the next president of the United States. We must be diligent and vigilant when the inauguration takes place. How many times have we seen unstable people do horrific things for radical causes?
Let’s not confuse a real revolution with real change from tyranny, genocide and dictatorships. A little group of mentally deranged people can’t have the ultimate say. We have defeated greater forces in our great history. This is just an awakening of how mentally sick we are becoming. A real monster that’s lurking in all of our psyches is our dependence on social media platforms for all the answers. We are becoming so dependent on electronic media in all of its shapes and forms and contents. All we get are shallow remedies and unfair actions from people. The future of our children is in our hands. God bless America. We have to defeat this negative virus that’s attacking our brain and it’s not only COVID-19. It’s the virus of hate.
Jan. 6, 2021, will be remembered as a moment of lunacy by domestic terrorists. We cannot live in fear. We have been living in fear for the last year, and now we have seen another form of fear. Let freedom ring without fear.
It was fortunate more people weren’t killed
Julie Meier Wright is a retired CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
I grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Whenever I return and see the beautiful skyline, including the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, I choke up.
Last Wednesday, I was horrified to see an angry right-wing mob overrun outnumbered police officers to break into the U.S. Capitol Building, the seat of the legislative branch of our federal government. I saw confederate flags. Nazi T-shirts. Profanity. Violence. Even death.
It was heartbreaking.
As someone long involved in politics and policy, I know that there is a better way. It starts with something my beloved Dad always taught me: Walk a mile in another’s shoes.
In the year we just came through — with an inadequate response to COVID-19, a damaged economy, a polarizing presidential campaign and post-election period, and, as the new year dawned, an assault on the U.S. Capitol — we really must learn to walk a mile in another’s shoes.
Science, the economy and shedding polarizing politics all have key roles.
First, science. Scientists are some of the most honest people I know. They tell you what they know, what they don’t know, and, if something changes, how new information changes their beliefs. (If only politicians would do the same!) Science is peer-reviewed. Approvals for pharmaceuticals and therapeutics are rigorous, often too slow. But, with sufficient funding and focus, scientists were able to build on years of work — in this case the mRNA platform — and develop multiple vaccines to beat a novel virus.
Second, the economy. I’ve spent years representing business and helping California and San Diego be competitive for job-creating investment. It has been painful to watch the economic devastation wreaked by COVID-19, seeing people losing jobs, small-business owners lose their dreams, company executives laying off dedicated employees. Even the beleaguered health care sector has been impacted because it had to idle parts of its business just to be prepared for COVID-19 surges that, as public-health officials predicted, have happened every time we the public have let our guards down.
Science and business are inexorably intertwined. Sound science and the effective management of COVID-19 are key to reopening our economy.
Third, shedding polarizing politics. We have been through a polarizing four years, but the seeds of our divisiveness have been planted for a long time, most recently during a nasty presidential election that ignored most of the issues that everyday people are concerned about. It culminated — for reasons that will best be determined by investigation and by history — in one of the most dangerous assaults by domestic terrorists on our nation’s government in our history. We were fortunate that more people were not hurt or killed.
It’s a wake-up call for everyone who ignores politics. Who isn’t informed about issues. Who doesn’t insist on sound civics and American history curricula in our schools.
But it is also an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to comity and compromise, and to tackle the difficult challenges COVID-19 and the economy have laid at our feet.
Walk a mile in another’s shoes, and you can be part of the solution.
What happened is an affront to our values
David Nguyen is a retired restaurateur. He lives in San Diego.
What happened on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 is an affront to democracy. Sadly, among those domestic terrorists, there were some misguided Vietnamese immigrants trying to stop elected officials from performing their duties as prescribed by the Constitution while raising the flag of the old Republic of Vietnam — the flag over which more than 50,000 Americans and generations of Vietnamese people died fighting for what it stood for.
To my fellow Americans, those immigrants do not speak for me, and I can speak for most of us to say that we value this democratic way of life — the one that we lost when our country fell to the North Vietnam communists’ hands and that we regained when we landed on this soil, the birthplace of the Constitution that many countries have tried to imitate but never equaled. They have desecrated our collective history and heritage by flying that flag alongside other symbols of hate and bigotry.
As long as I live, the Stars and Stripes and my historical flag will proudly fly together at my house as the symbols of hope for other people who lost the privileges that we are currently enjoying. I will be standing by to defend both of them and ask you to be there with me to defend what they represent, the true meaning of democracy.
To those misguided Vietnamese immigrants who took the misguided action on Jan. 6 there and everywhere else to support Donald Trump, the only president hell-bent on destroying America, have you forgotten the time you stood in front of a federal magistrate, when you swore to become American and pledged your allegiance not to a president but to America? At the behest of a failed candidate, you betrayed that pledge and took actions to support feudalism and self-appointed King Trump.
I firmly believe in the Constitution, like the religions you believe in, and I feel like it was a personal attack to my core when you attacked the Capitol. I equate that to someone who desecrates your religious holy site. Your actions demonstrate that while living in the U.S., you still think you are better off living as subjects of a king. Along with your cohort, you pushed America to the brink of destruction. If there is any courage left in you, you should renounce your U.S. citizenship and go back to Vietnam where you will be re-educated by the communists on the meaning of the word liberty.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Trump proved to be unfit to lead America, and you have proved unfit to enjoy the freedom this country is giving you. I am no longer your compatriot.
America, I bow my head in apology for the actions of the spoiled immigrants who took part in the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
Youthful ambition is at an all-time low
Scott Anglim is a student of political science and history at San Diego Mesa College and serves as California legislative coordinator for Team Enough. He lives in City Heights.
The Jan. 6 coup d’état failed. Many have been asking who bears the blame and how this could have happened. Many more are asking how to avoid future insurrections. The electorate of the next 50 years are looking to events like these to shape their concepts of acceptable political discourse. Elected officials at all levels must reach first to the voters of tomorrow to rebuild faith in American institutions.
Only months ago, chemical weapons were used against children, armored vehicles were deployed against high school students, and minors were threatened, beaten and detained for exercising their rights to redress and protest. The overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations from last summer were, especially in San Diego, organized predominantly by the youth.
In an act which outwardly appears childish, thousands of adults launched a coordinated, malicious and terroristic insurrection against Congress because they didn’t get what they wanted. Emboldened by ideals of White supremacy and neofascism, this deadly adult tantrum received slow, inadequate and irresponsible reaction from authorities. While police pepper-sprayed sophomores in June, officers held the hands of domestic terrorists in January, walking one woman down the Capitol steps.
This contrast has not gone unnoticed. The comparison is being drawn, again and again, between the reaction to Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the Jan. 6 coup attempt. Those of us who were there last summer remain profoundly unsurprised. As is the case with Black and Brown activists, the youth of America have become used to getting the short end of the stick.
Our schools have been underfunded for years. We watch lead being removed from pipes and asbestos from ceilings as we use textbooks from the 1980s. School counselors are cut from the payroll while classroom sizes steadily grow. Teachers are forced into early retirement. Students see this.
The cost of a bachelor’s degree has never been higher, the demand for one has never been greater, and the student debt crisis is out of control. The wealth gap grows by billions of dollars, the spending power of the average worker shrinks, social mobility seems a thing of the past, and the growing deficit stares us in the face. Teenagers recognize this.
If we survive the epidemic of school shootings in this country, we are faced with the looming threat of climate change. Crisis after crisis has been shrugged off as the problem of the generation after. Should today’s kids fail in confronting these threats, there may not be a generation after. Young people know this. It should come as little surprise that the suicide rate among minors has exploded in recent years.
The government that was threatened on Jan. 6 is one which has largely turned a deaf ear to the concerns of tomorrow. As Mitch McConnell, 78 years old, and Nancy Pelosi, 80 years old, reassured the American people of their dedication to ensuring the strength of the republic and its democratic values, those of us who often feel neglected are cynical.
To prevent the erosion of democracy, there is a desperate need for youth representation. Young people everywhere are already fighting for their beliefs, the smart thing to do is let them in the arena; give the kids a chance! Try creating positions for youth representatives and student consultants to the City Council. Try welcoming more interns to City Hall. Try funding, campaigning for and electing younger candidates to public office. Experience is indispensable, but youthful ambition is at an all-time low. Without securing our future, there is little need in securing our present.
Trump’s coup failed, but we all really lost
Jodi Cilley is the founder and president of the Film Consortium San Diego, and an adjunct professor at San Diego City College. She lives in Tijuana.
Witnessing the last four years has been like watching a wild (but predictable) movie. In the least surprising climax to Donald Trump’s presidency, the attack on the Capitol was a disaster we all saw coming but were helpless to prevent. What happens when politicians lie to the masses in order to protect the ego of an out-of-control authoritarian? What happens when people put their political aspirations above truth, morality and common sense? What happens, as Edmund Burke wrote, when good men do nothing? This is what happens.
Jan. 6, 2021, is a day none of us will soon forget. I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting when my phone started buzzing frantically with texts from anxious friends and family horrified by what they were seeing. Nothing can prepare you to watch an attempted coup on your own government, even if you knew it was coming. This insurrection was not privately cultivated behind closed doors. This was a fire that was built, lit and accelerated in plain sight on social media, in the press and directly from the mouth of our sitting president and his powerful supporters — the very leaders we entrusted to protect our democracy.
In a true testament to Trump’s power and influence, those who attacked the Capitol openly didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. It seems they wholeheartedly believed they were doing the “right thing” to protect American democracy. They took selfies, posted videos and hosted livestreams on social media. They willingly shared their faces and names as if the history books would remember them as heroes and patriots. While I reflect on the dreadful events at the capitol, legions of people celebrate the violence and lawlessness that went down. I’m an unapologetic optimist, but even I am shaken at the thought of this.
As we pick up the pieces, how do we move forward as a nation? How do we convince millions of people, who are entrenched in their beliefs, that they’ve been conned? How do we restore hope and trust in our democracy to those who still look to Trump as their savior? How do we convince that many people that it is impossible to preserve democracy by staging a rebellion against a fair and legitimate election? These are questions we desperately need to answer to pull us out of dark days and toward the light.
Trump’s coup failed, but we all lost Wednesday. Many of us will have to grieve the assault on our home, people and democracy, but if we truly believe that America is great and that it’s worth saving, everyone needs to act fast. Rioters must be held accountable for their actions, but we have to be very careful with our reaction. Seeking revenge is another predictable plot point that leads to civil war. Each of us should act in ways that can help bring one and all back from the brink. We must fight back with truth and integrity. We have to act with kindness and peace. This is a critical time to use our art, our voices, our intentions and our actions to restore balance to this country. The future of our nation truly depends on it.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.