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In times of violence, we need to return to God’s law of love: Fr. Eugene Hemrick

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Tear gas is released into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the 2020 election results at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2021. President Donald Trump was impeached for a second time in his presidency Jan. 13, charged with "incitement of insurrection" for protesters' attack on the Capitol. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

Looking outside from my apartment, my stomach sickened. Additional fencing encircling government buildings at the corner had been added to reinforce uplifted car barriers.

I was disturbed to see National Guard soldiers whom I had befriended wearing helmets and carrying gas masks; a far cry from seeing them without any gear hours before.

Eugene Hemrick
Father Eugene Hemrick writes for Catholic News Service (CNS file photo/Bob Roller)

Earlier in the day, I drove to Hains Point and walked along the Potomac River to release tension. As I returned home, the streets bordering the National Mall were blockaded. Metropolitan Police squad cars were everywhere. Snow plows and dump trucks blocked crossing streets that ran through the mall. Getting home was a nightmare, requiring navigating around closed streets and dealing with traffic backups.

Feelings of anger, revenge and incomprehensibility welled up upon seeing the entrance to the U.S. Capitol breached. I wrote a book on the religious symbolism found in and on the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Capitol. I virtually lived in the Capitol when photographing its statues, artwork and inspiring mottos. Thinking of its revered inscriptions like “Out of many, one,” run over by senseless mob violence was like entering Dante’s Inferno.

Presently, Public Broadcasting Service is running the program, “The Great Tours: Washington, D.C.” A recent episode toured Arlington National Cemetery. It not only talked about famous gravesites, but it focused mainly on the men and women of various nationalities and religions who gave their lives to preserve democracy.

Much talk has addressed how our democracy held despite recent events. Here we must ask, “Is more needed than holding onto democracy?” Is not making it improve and grow more paramount during these times?

As a young boy, I took courses in civics. They taught us to be thankful for our freedom, about sacrifices made to preserve it and what is essential to democracy.

To avoid recurring nightmares and to reduce tensions, internalizing the essence of democracy is of the upmost importance. As wonderful as our National Guard and police are, developing wisdom is needed on how to better appreciate our democratic heritage and adopt God’s law of love as its core: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”