These are difficult days, to be sure, whether dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic or political unrest in Washington, D.C. The combination of the two has people in the United States undergoing a collective anxiety attack.
It’s a new year, but the nation is hardly turning in a new direction yet — and the uncertainty and anxiety weigh us down. In these moments, we must seek out inspiration.
Yes, we can find moments of joy and good news to embrace, incidents that can give us heart for the days ahead.
Front and center, there is the tale of Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who confronted an angry mob last week. The first views of the video were puzzling — one man, people screaming and gesticulating, a physical confrontation seemingly seconds away. Goodman led them away, always slightly ahead of rioters intent on chasing him down. Only in the days after the insurrection at the Capitol did we learn what was really happening.
The doors to the Senate chambers — directly behind officer Goodman — had not been sealed.
If the mob continued to push forward, lawmakers inside would have been at the mercy of the angry rioters. Goodman’s fast thinking likely prevented more injury, even death. He’s a hero. Considering police officers from both the Capitol force and across the country are being investigated for participating in the uprising, finding a good guy is reassuring.
We saw another good Samaritan during the lockdown: Rep. Linda Blunt Rochester, D-Del. She handed out masks to lawmakers stuck together in close quarters.
What a contrast to six smug GOP lawmakers who declined her kind offer. Three representatives in the room now have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s likely the horrific assault on our democracy is a super-spreader event — few in the mob were wearing masks.
To lawmakers who refuse to wear masks that safeguard themselves and others — to all people, really — work virtually. No other member of Congress, nor the New Mexico Legislature, nor any other governing body, should have to be at risk because of selfishness. Neither should staff members, janitors nor members of the public.
If not wearing a mask means freedom, feel free to enjoy those choices away from the rest of us.
Poignantly, in the aftermath of the rioting and terror, one photograph caught the attention of the world. Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., picked up trash in the Capitol. During the riot, he had been away from the mess there, working in another, separate federal building. He later returned to finish the work the rioters interrupted, certifying the 2020 presidential election.
When Kim saw the trash around the Rotunda, it broke his heart. He spent an hour and a half picking up detritus of the day, filling half a dozen bags with garbage and then moving on to other rooms.
Closer to home, we told the story of Melissa Garcia, a post office worker who last month noticed three days of newspapers and mail piling up at one of the houses on her route.
She didn’t look away. She knocked on 82-year-old Joe Garcia’s door. With no answer, she talked to neighbors and when learning they hadn’t seen him in a few days, she called police for a wellness check.
Joe Garcia credits the postal carrier — no relation — with saving his life. He had fallen and could not get up. In stopping to check, in asking questions, Melissa Garcia sets an example for all of us — just as Goodman’s bravery, Blunt Rochester’s care for others and Kim’s dedication to repairing damage, have done. Each of us can make a difference.
That’s a lesson we need more than ever now. As Melissa Garcia put it so well: “Young and old, we should probably all check on each other.”