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File photo by John Minchillo of The Associated Press / In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington. Many of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 cited falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the election.

Writing about the Jan. 6 anniversary has its challenges — as soon as you name it, you're locked into a specific political category. If you try to cross into other political categories, you're insulted and silenced. Try describing Jan. 6 as an insurrection, riot, protest or a distraction and see what I mean. We are a deeply divided country, and conspiracy theorists are making it worse. No wonder there's all this talk about the demise of democracy.

Discussions abound on "How to save American Democracy" and "Can we Save our Democracy". Topics are as diverse as voting rights, tax credits, our borders, the environment, COVID mandates, equity efforts and the filibuster. Each topic is like a pile of dry wood about to be ignited. And the fuel for the potential explosion is what fueled Jan. 6: the Big Lie conspiracy theory.

So while a far-right website called the anniversary "Democrat Day of Hysteria," try to imagine what our country would look like if we'd had a peaceful transition after the 2020 elections. We'd still have faith in our electoral system. We wouldn't have wasted more than $500 million in taxpayer money chasing down false claims of voting irregularities. We might have prevented groups such as QAnon from going mainstream. And we could have counteracted Michael Flynn who once said, "We need warriors, right now, we need champions, we need generals, we need soldiers That's what we need running our country." Celebrating this anniversary, Flynn recently praised GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene for touting the conspiracy theory that deep-state folks were behind this "fedsurrection."

This anniversary has reinforced, and even rewarded, the name-calling, blaming and accusing, along with denying and justifying. And Fox News has taken on the role of chief enabler. Take Fox's Newt Gingrich, who blamed Jan. 6 on Nancy Pelosi and said the insurrection and violence were all her fault because she should've secured the building before Trump supporters stormed it.

Gingrich is almost as ridiculous as Fox News icon, Tucker Carlson, who promotes conspiracy theories on his series, "Patriots Purge." He repeated the QAnon-inspired accusation that Antifa and the FBI were behind Jan. 6. According to Carlson, left-leaning groups posing as Trump supporters were actually " soldiers and paramilitary law enforcement guided by the world's most powerful intelligence agencies hunting down American citizens."

Repeated exposure to Fox News can be as toxic as a nasty virus. No wonder a lawyer defending one of the rioters in court claimed his client suffered from a mental illness he labeled "Fox-itis." The Fox-itis of Jan. 6 may be just a prequel to the misery of the 2022 elections, not to mention the 2024 presidential election. Yet, as Shakespeare famously wrote "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."

Former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Dick Cheney have warned that our democracy is in danger. They agree that GOP leadership must lead us away from this conspiracy-inspired destructiveness.

They are joined by companies, corporations, and organizations that cannot afford to have their increasingly diverse employees at each others' throats. Businesses know that much-needed employees won't flock to divisive workplaces so they highlight "belonging" and "authenticity."

If we're to successfully navigate this election year, we should learn from the workplace. All of us, not just leaders, must cross party lines to acknowledge what is the root causes of these perilous times and stop enabling destructive conspiracies.

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.

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