The assault on the United States Capitol was a wake up call, a reminder that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and that democracy requires us all.
A longing for freedom, a longing to be heard above the crowd and to build a society with enough room for those we love, runs deep in the American spirit. Yet, how quickly these can become the very things that separate us and make us enemies to each other.
G.K. Chesterton once remarked that the line that divides good and evil is not a line between two people, but a line that passes through each individual heart. Each of us possess all that is necessary to do extraordinary good. Some, with very few resources, have transformed the world because they fed the better angels of their nature.
On the other hand, each one of us possess all that is necessary to destroy the world, and ourselves with it.
What erupted into chaos, destruction, and death at the Capitol was the cumulative effect of years of failing at the small things that build civil society. Listening, fairness, self-discipline, openness to the Other, and telling the truth. When we ignore these simple gestures, the greater things we desire are beyond our grasp.
It is tempting to rationalize and justify violence, destruction, and incivility when it erupts in support of something for which we care deeply. Self-righteous myopia is not a flaw of the right or of the left, it is a human shortcoming we must all avoid.
Here at Ferrum College, everything we do is preparing us to be generous, free, and responsible citizens. How we disagree with each other, the way we embrace our diversity, and our abiding commitment to ‘Not Self, but Others,’ give us the tools we need to build a society stronger and better than what we saw last week.
I am eager for our Panther family to begin a new semester. We will support each other through the challenges of this pandemic, encouraging each other to excel in the classroom, the court and field, in the residence halls, and in our neighboring communities. With determination and a renewed sense of purpose, we will continue to practice those things that make for a better tomorrow.
David L. Johns, Ph.D.