Anyone who was an adult on January 6 last year will remember what they were doing that day. I’ve often heard it said that the Arab states can lose war after war against Israel and continue to exist, but if Israel loses one war, it will cease to exist. The same thing can be said about American democracy: democracy has to win every battle fought against it or it will cease to exist.
I truly love the prayer for our country that we say every Shabbat morning. In this prayer we express the hope that “citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.”
This is some of what I wrote to you last year on January 4, two days before Congress was slated to open, tally, and confirm the electoral votes of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia:
This week will determine whether the “ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country” are resilient enough to withstand the greatest challenge they have faced since 1861. . .
[T]he challenges to the election have been fully litigated. Sixty of the sixty-one cases filed in both state and federal courts filed by the Trump campaign and its allies have been lost. (The one case which they won had to do with how close election observers could be to the vote counters.) The Supreme Court, with three justices nominated by President Trump, twice declined to entertain appeals which reached it -- once by 7-2 and once by 9-0, but in both cases all three justices appointed by President Trump voted to reject his appeals.
We have learned by hard experience that the “ideals and free institutions” of our country are not self-enforcing. They need to be guarded vigilantly. The foundation of our system is the acceptance of election results even when they are not to our liking, and the commitment of those who are charged with running elections and counting the votes to do so fairly and accurately. In this regard the real heroes of democracy are state officials in places like Georgia and Arizona which are Republican-governed states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden in November. May God bless them and give them the continued strength to faithfully fulfill the responsibilities with which they have been entrusted.
As we saw, democracy won on January 6 last year but not without a struggle and not without loss of life. Vigilance is still required. While many of the “foot soldiers” of the January 6 insurrection have been arrested, tried, and jailed if convicted, the “generals” of January 6 have not yet been held responsible. While we all enjoy the right to free speech, that does not include incitement to violence or encouraging others to commit crimes. All of us, regardless of our political leanings or affiliations, need to recommit to free and fair elections and acceptance of the results.
When the Constitutional Convention was held in 1787, its deliberations were secret. When the Convention ended, anxious citizens gathered at Independence Hall to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. A certain Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
As Jews and Americans, may we prove equal to the task.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian