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By Linda Hoffman Kimball

January 6, 2021 DC USA – can you decipher the words on the white flag?


When I was 10 in 1962, I was aware from overheard news reports of something involving our US government, Cuba, and Russia. I couldn’t have told you any details, but the Cuban Missile Crisis seeped into my naïve little system. I seriously thought I wouldn’t live to see 12.

On November 22, 1963, I was 11 and at recess at my elementary school. I heard a rumor – President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Texas. Back in the classroom this terrible news was confirmed. I didn’t understand politics, but this shook me. I wept, although I wasn’t entirely sure why. I felt just how vulnerable I was – how vulnerable we all were. I felt as though some father-figure or benevolent and important uncle had just been murdered, and none of us was safe.

During my high school years (1964-1969) the Vietnam war had killed a cousin and was constantly on TV with its graphic images of napalmed children and thick, swampy jungles.

I went off to college in New England (Wellesley College) in the fall of 1969. The next May (1970) students about my age at Kent State University were injured or killed by the National Guard at a peace protest against the raging war in Vietnam. Closer to my academic home, I remember being on the phone with friends in Cambridge, MA, who described the phalanxes of police blocking Mass Ave, the smell of the tear gas, the sound of shattering glass in Harvard Square.

By then I had memorized the sardonic, grim lyrics of Country Joe and the Fish’s ballad “I feel like I’m fixin’ to Die Rag”:

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

Time passes full of wars and assaults. Planes fly into buildings. Loved ones get inescapable diagnoses.

Psychic traumas integrated themselves into my world view. For every grand vista, happy reunion, spiritual assurance, and moments of bliss, I was always aware of a shadow on the edges – insidious, malevolent, putrid. Yin. Yang. One Great Whole. The good parts are hard to remember right now.

Wednesday’s siege on the capitol by good-ole Proud Boys (and girls/women) gave me flashbacks to those earlier traumatic episodes of my personal history. The world out of focus. The world out of whack. William Butler Yeats Poem “The Second Coming” captures the feel in its first stanza:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

All Wednesday long – and on into the early hours of the next morning, I watched – with tears running down my cheeks – the repeated images of the Capitol breached by the “passionate intensity” of rowdy, deeply convinced, armed thugs desecrating the Capitol building – the “temple of our democracy.”

How was this happening? How did they breach the building so easily? What falsehoods had they embraced? How had they come to believe this was an appropriate thing to do? Wasn’t this white supremacy unleashed?

I also thought about our gorgeous planet seen from space as a lovely blue marble – so seemingly tranquil when seen from that distant perspective. Up close, however it is broiling with criminality and chaos – it is best to hire criminal defense lawyers; celebrations and joys.

As the members of Congress reconvened in the bullet-ridden gallery later on Wednesday, I was somewhat buoyed by the tone of several of their brief speeches. Some still seemed to believe fictions but were at least willing to honor their congressional responsibilities. Many called for unity, for commitment to long-imbedded national principles and practices. Mitt Romney’s words soothed some of the chaos of my heart: “The best way we could show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth.”

They got their work done (winding up near 4am) – the peaceful and orderly transfer of power.

And what to do about accountability? Law and Order?

Can we humbly listen to people of color who have seen more than their “share” of life’s inequities and may have deep wisdom to share?

When I finally fell into bed, part of me felt raw and as vulnerable as a 10-year-old worrying about something ominous regarding Cuba. Today I’m shaky, heartsick, but somewhat less vulnerable. A lot about life on this planet is complex, contradictory, and unfathomable. In the accumulated years since I was 10 I remind myself that when I am shaky, I can lean heavily on the wisdom of these words:

Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure          foundation, a foundation whereon if [souls] build they cannot fall.                                          Helaman 5:12

Let US get to work, and Heaven, help us!

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

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