Benicia Candlelight Vigil on Anniversary of January 6 Insurrection

Photo: Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

Reflecting on our fragile democracy

By Co-Organizer Terry Scott

Despite short notice. Despite terrible wet, cold conditions. More than 50 hardy citizens joined together Thursday evening as a community to take pause and reflect on how fragile our democracy is and how we must continue to proudly use our voice to reflect our opinions.

As I switched on the microphone, I took a quick look out at the gathering and saw a sea of serious faces lit by candlelight. I immediately felt a wave of emotion that made me proud to be part of a community that is willing to brave the elements to show unity in purpose and a willingness to have their voices heard—part of the very foundation of what our democracy stands for.

I made a few opening comments which I strongly believe to be true. I believe the most salient comments suggested that we are in the midst of a culture war for the soul of America.

Red Vs. Blue. Mask Vs. No Mask. Vax vs anti-vax, etc. I suggested we must transcend beyond the cultural media battlefield.  We must remember that we may disagree on many things, yet we need to remember to agree that we are all part of the fabric of one nation.

I turned the microphone over to Benicia’s Poet Laureate Mary Susan Gast who read four very powerful poems. One in particular still echoes in my mind. It is titled On the day after the Insurrection, by former Benicia Poet Laureate Johanna Ely.  The final three lines struck me soundly:

As I cry for my ravaged country,
how exquisitely the landscape blurs,
my eyes weeping water and light.

How poignant. How timely.

Following the poetry readings, I asked if anyone wished to speak. Former Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and our Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown both spoke with emotion and yet with clear purpose of what can happen to our democracy if we do not continue to be aware, educated and ready to fight for our democracy. With each speaker came a new perspective on the impact of the January 6 Insurrection and how we must be united in purpose as we move forward.

Each speaker adding an additional emotional layer on top of the speaker before. It was so genuine. So energizing. But also a bit scary that we are sincerely discussing the possibility of losing the precious gift of democracy.

As the event ended, I could see groups of four and five people sharing comments and observations. I heard a group of folks singing behind me like a subtle sound track for the closing moments.

Clearly those who came out did not want to stop sharing this moment. It was a heartfelt expression of a community bonding together.

Terry Scott