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Letter to the Editor: Who We Are

The phrase, “This is not who we are” was heard many times on and after Jan. 6 in response to the rioters and vandals who attacked the Capitol. As Americans, I think it’s time we realize that this is exactly who we are. Denying the ugly parts and histories of who we are is like diabetics ignoring the open sores on the far end of their toes.

At some time or other, we’ve all probably said about some action or behavior that embarrasses us or contradicts our usual demeanor, “I don’t know where that came from” or “That’s not who I am.” But it is us. And until people admit that, they will continue, at their own peril, to pretend they don’t know “where that came from.” 

Collectively, we Americans need to do the same. We need to believe what we saw unfold on Jan. 6, 2021, and admit that this is, at least in part, exactly who we are. It is as much a part of who we are as our most disquieting secret or thought.

Imagine the country as a large, beautiful house we have inherited. This is not an original thought, but it helps me to think about who we are. We are rightfully proud of this house, work hard to keep it up and even make improvements. 

However, the original and most subsequent occupants ignored some major structural cracks in the foundation. We, the current owners, have ignored the cracks also. We fooled ourselves by thinking that we didn’t build the foundation, so the cracks are not our fault. We shouldn’t be blamed for the cracks or have to take on the difficult burden of fixing them, in spite of what we see in front of our eyes. 

Last year and Jan. 6, 2021, show that those cracks are still there and the crumbling is more significant than we wanted to admit. We have choices to make before our kids inherit the house we leave them. What we each choose to do next will show exactly “who we are.”

Dan Powers

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin