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American Epiphany

By Barry Taylor

"The spirits that I summoned up, I can no longer control." -Von Goethe

On the sixth of January, The Feast of Epiphany, a day of revelation, something unsavory was ‘revealed’ on the steps of the US Capitol building as elected officials gathered to perform a political ritual. The mob that invaded the Capitol and attempted what seemed to be at least an attempt at the disruption of political process and at the worst a very disorganized coup, revealed the dark, conflicted soul of America. In spite of all the ‘this is not who we are as Americans’ comments, this is actually exactly who we are; a nation mired in conspiracy theories and disaffection, polarized and divided, unable to distinguish fact from fiction. In fact, often conflating fiction for fact. 

The revelation, the epiphany, is that things long allowed to fester in the collective psyche have risen to the surface and exploded the myth of American tolerance and generosity. When it comes right down to it, when we feel things not going our way, we choose brute force and attempt to hold onto to things regardless of the cost. Another revelation is the ongoing disparity about race-while the gathering was not made up exclusively by white Americans, it was predominantly white and the response to this supposed ‘protest’ was incredibly lenient overall, something noted again and again by citizens and pundits all over the media as events unfolded yesterday. And another revelation was that people don’t know an anarchist from a fascist, or a protest from an insurrection, and we seem to have lost the ability to communicate in anything but the most base forms.

The feast of Epiphany is about the enigmatic men from the East who came bearing gifts to the Christ child. I’m not sure the Jesus Saves banner or the cross erected in the same gathering as the erection of a gallows and noose is what we have in mind when our minds are cast back to that moment at the heart of Epiphany. Religion has become enmeshed in prejudice, bitterness and rage and yesterday we saw one more occasion when religion, and the worst of us were working together, not to make the world a better place, but revealing how much work we must do in order to find better ways of being human and how much we need to examine the sick relationship between religion and prejudice, bias and privilege.

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