By Jim Heffernan
January 6 has been rolling around in my brain. Not just January 6, 2021, and the shame attached to that particular day. There was something else about January 6 that seemed somehow familiar but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Finally, from an almost forgotten corner of my mind, I had a “little e” epiphany that told me every January 6 is the traditional “Big E” Epiphany, the Holy Day that celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus and the revelation that the baby Jesus is the personification of the Lord.
January 6, 2021, is a “little e” epiphany we should hold in our hearts. It was and is a revelation that there are among us too many men and women, definitely not wise men and women, who were willing to trample our precious democracy in a blind rage at the behest of an unhinged demagogue.
I am hoping that in this year, and every year, we think of January 6 as “big E” and “little e” and make it a day dedicated to putting our anger behind us and dedicated to seeking out the counsel of our “better angels”.
In Germany, there are numerous monuments and museums where you can find the words “Niemals Vergessen”. “Niemals Vergessen” translates to “never forgotten” in English. The monuments and museums serve as reminders of the horrors of the Holocaust.
I have to admire the courage and humility that these monuments and museums represent. History should serve as a reminder of our mistakes. Too often, history tends to trumpet our achievements and gloss over our transgressions. History should be all of the story, not just the parts that make us feel good.
I think the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma Massacre provides a perfect example. A white mob destroyed a section of Tulsa and killed maybe 300 people (no good accounting available).
I grew up in a neighboring state, starting school in 1952, and I never heard about it. The Tulsa police chief was indicted by a grand jury in June 1921. He was found guilty on 2 of 5 charges. One of the charges was for negligence for not stopping the riot and one of the charges had to do with corruption involving stolen cars. He was expelled from the police force for negligence, he was sentenced to jail for the stolen car caper.
50 years after the event, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce decided to commemorate the riot. Once they read accounts and saw photographs detailing the specifics, they changed their mind. Likewise, the two major newspapers refused to publish. Ed Wheeler, the author, finally published the article in Impact Magazine. A facsimile of the article is available at the Smithsonian website at https://www.si.edu/object/profile-race-riot%3Anmaahc_2011.60.18. Take a look, absolutely incredible.
100 years after the event, Joe Biden visited the site and said, “My fellow Americans: this was not a riot. This was a massacre — among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history. As soon as it happened there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory — our collective memories,”
I believe the history of this last year should make us construct in our hearts two “Niemals Vergessen” monuments so we can never forget the carnage of Covid-19 and the disgrace of the January 6 riot at the Capitol.