January 6, 2021
Dear Gonzaga Community:
Like so many of you, I found today’s truly unprecedented and violent actions in our nation’s capital to be deeply disturbing. As the photos and news reports have made clear, this was an intentional effort to subvert the lawful process of confirming the results of the recent presidential election by storming the Capitol Building and interfering with the work of Congress. The confirmation of the election is a process that is mandated to Congress by the Constitution itself.
But further, today’s events were a terrifying demonstration of what occurs when emotionally charged individuals choose to act in unlawful and destructive ways. In crossing barricades and disobeying the lawful instruction of those charged to protect members of Congress and other staff, the protesters became unlawful intruders, forcing government officials and civil servants alike to seek shelter as windows were smashed, the building unlawfully invaded, and offices and chambers occupied. This was indeed an important and terrible moment for our country, a moment that has left many traumatized and shaken even as the military and civil authorities are moving quickly to restore order.
We are a nation founded upon certain democratic principles and concepts. Fundamental to preservation of individual and collective rights and liberties in these United States is the principle of the Rule of Law – enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. There can be no question that our nation has many times struggled in its quest to fully realize the ideals enshrined in these documents; but they are foundational nonetheless to the constitution of this Republic. And the deliberate, peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another, one Congress to another, is one of many elements that has been carefully set forth in the U.S. Constitution as well.
Gonzaga University, a proud member of the higher education community in this country, is dedicated through its mission to “educating students for lives of leadership and service to the common good.” Today’s events serve as a reminder of just how significant, yet fragile, the concept and reality of “the common good” truly is. In a modern, democratic society, the common good relates to those things we – individually and collectively – choose to invest in, in order to advance the interests of all people. These include the provision of education, healthcare, a sustainable economic infrastructure, and just and equitable systems of government; they also include the preservation of civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, the right to vote, and the right to live safely and securely. These civil liberties, as we have seen time and time again, are under constant threat.
Today’s events therefore underscore that “the common good” is not a given, it does not happen automatically. We – the individual members of this nation and its communities – we choose whether to commit ourselves to the common good, whether to support or to suppress it. Today was a live demonstration of what happens when individuals choose to place the desires of individuals above those of the common good – at the same time placing individual lives, as well as the Rule of Law, in jeopardy. It is my fervent hope that those represented to serve us – all of us – in the government of this democracy, do not fail to learn from the lessons of this moment. Let them act with renewed resolve towards conducting themselves in a manner that reflects an unwavering commitment to their obligations under the Constitution, to their constituents, and the law. This is their obligation, and it is our obligation to hold them accountable to it.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.