The Breach: Meditation & Resources

The following was also published as a Weekly Meditation. Below it is a collection of related resources.

Our process is democratic, yes, but it is also built on some fundamental principles: we care for our neighbors as ourselves. We accept outcomes we may not like. We live to struggle another day. We are gracious in victory and magnanimous in defeat. But that is not what we are seeing today.

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, D.Min.
The Very Rev. Randolph M. Hollerith

Those words came from a statement from the Episcopal Bishop of Washington and the Dean of the National Cathedral, as events surrounding the insurrection last Wednesday unfolded.

Many of us who have worked in schools know well the discrepancy implied in that statement: while holding onto and emphasizing essential ideals, we can, nonetheless, be confronted with shattering, gut-wrenching realities in our communities that lay bare our current condition. We may, in response, say, “This is not who we are.” Yet it is who we are. As many in our communities will remind us, this is not all of who we are, but there is surely truth in what we see, a sad reality lurking beneath the surface.

The breach at the Capitol last Wednesday, with the ensuing violence and desecration, teaches us many lessons as a country. It also teaches—or re-teaches—us vivid lessons about real or potential breaches in our schools.

There is the power of words—in this case, how words can incite—and our need to focus as much on the impact of words as the intention behind the words we use.

The remarkable sense of confident entitlement the encroaching mob displayed reacquaints us, once again, with the fundamental inequities in our country. We live with a national value gap, where one group of people—white people—are seen to possess more value than people of color.

Following the breach, senators made substantial references to the Capitol as a sacred place, a temple, or shrine. We were reminded of the power and necessity of symbolic places.

Commentators continuously alluded to the prestigious educational institutions some of the architects of Wednesday’s chaos attended, and we learned anew how intellectual acumen and institutional prestige are hardly guarantors of integrity.

Perhaps the boldest and most sobering lesson we re-learned was the importance of our leaders being people of character; how character is, truly, destiny. As Bishop Taylor of Los Angeles remarked, the preludes to insurrection revealed that “the moral and temperamental qualities of a leader do matter.”

Eddie Glaude Jr. recently warned that, “America is at a knife’s edge.”* On Wednesday we were confronted with the extent of polarization, alienation, and inclination toward authoritarianism that constitutes that edge. The degree to which this event shocked some, but not others, tells us something of the power and poignancy of this divide.

Character, truth, equality, and democracy itself are all at stake. Fortunately, we, in Episcopal schools, are in a prime place to begin to speak truth, build community, and humbly help repair the breach.

*Taken from Eddie Glaude, Jr.’s keynote address at the NAIS People of Color Conference, December 2, 2020.

Related Statements