The importance of the truth should be the lesson of Jan. 6.

The mob that stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., ultimately causing the deaths of five people including some among their ranks and a police officer doing his job, did so because they believed a lie. They were whipped into a frenzy by people they should have been able to trust. In journalistic terms, we would, normally, consider the President of the United States to be the ultimate “official source.”

President Donald Trump, however, lied to the American people saying the Nov. 3 election was stolen from them. How do we know he was wrong about that? Because he tested his cases in the courts and they made their verdicts.

Trump was enabled in the lies. The former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, once a widely respected figure, was with Trump in the rally Jan. 6 calling for “trial by combat.” U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley among others helped in fomenting discontent that led to insurrection, spreading the lie that the election was stolen.

This comes after years of conservative leaders telling people to distrust the press and putting out their own propaganda machines, posing as press to further distract and mislead the American people.

On Jan. 6, confused people believing they had been betrayed by our government, by our democracy, by their fellow citizens, bashed and beat and pressed their way into the Capitol building to disrupt the counting of electoral votes.

They used flags as weapons and chanted “U.S.A.” Some of them wore symbols of white power or waved flags such as the so-called “Confederate Flag,” which was never really used by the Confederates. It was the flag put forth by a founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

A woman among their ranks was shot dead. A Capitol police officer was murdered, bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher. Others suffered medical events. Other officers were injured.

Miraculously, the crowd did not include a mass shooter. However, the weakness of our security is still completely unacceptable given the fact that such a shooter could have killed hundreds of members of Congress that day. We can be sure our enemies around the world were taking notes as they watched.

So now we can look with some perspective on our options.

Our institutions are imperfect, but they have served us since the founding of this nation and the writing of the Constitution. Fair elections granting the vote to all equally, regardless of race, religion, age or gender are a shining example of liberty for the rest of the world. Our courts that offer true and fair justice, an opportunity for each side to make its arguments, for every accused person to put forth a defense, are the best ever witnessed in human history.

The peaceful transition of power in which the “loser” smoothly concedes the election, believing more fervently in the importance of the nation over self, has been the axle on which the wheels of democracy turn.

It is tempting to want to hear only those who agree with you; to filter out those with differing views, differing evidence. If you do not want to accept the realities of climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tempting to search out online some commentator who denies these things and attempt to live in that fictitious alternate reality.

But that’s not what democracy is all about. Clinging to conspiracy theories over facts and ignoring the evidence presented by legitimate sources has brought us to the alternative to our imperfect systems: chaos, mayhem, bedlam, corruption, cynicism, despair and division.

Decisions made based on lies and fantasies and propaganda are now costing human lives.

Decisions made on the truth are the ones that will bring about positive change.

So we need, as citizens, to cling to the truth, to demand it, to make no concessions for those who consistently abandon it. We cannot continue to enable and tolerate lies and character flaws in our leaders because they may attack some group we hate. Instead, it is time to search our souls and figure out if we are right to hate in the first place.

We are paying the price for folly. There are consequences for putting a corrupt person who is not qualified and shows compassion only for himself in the highest office in the land.

Now we must learn the lessons from this. Those who warned us of this dark day were the journalists, who turned out, largely, to be champions of the truth. We know now, also, that a person’s character does matter very much when it comes to electing a president.

We, as journalists, do not take much comfort in saying this because we live in a time of fear and we worry that the American people, some of them, will refuse to hear and apply the lessons of this past week.

All we can do is continue to commit ourselves to the truth and pledge in each of our wills to hold ourselves to the highest standard to keep the beacon of truth alive and prevent another day like Jan. 6, 2021.