Time for a Choice

In 1999, I spent four days in Washington, DC where I lobbied for children’s mental health parity on Capitol Hill.  It was November but it felt like early fall, with balmy weather, cool evenings, and brightly colored leaves making a swirling path for our ten-person group from Oregon.  Life felt light and hopeful.  It was a magical experience.

    
I visited the Lincoln Memorial (did you know it has a rickety old elevator and a gift shop?), Ford Theater, the house where Lincoln died, and even toured the White House.  I jumped in a tour van with a few of my cohorts and rode across the river into Virginia, to the Arlington National Cemetery, where I witnessed the Changing of the Guard and visited the tomb of JFK.  I stood in silent reverence as I read the quotes inscribed into the walls that surrounded his grave.  At the Vietnam Wall, I passed an elderly couple who were holding hands and quietly weeping.  There was so much about that trip that I will never forget. 

I spend many hours at the Capitol Building and watched Congress in session from a gallery seat.  This was before 9/11, but security was very tight.  While I had to go through metal detectors repeatedly on every floor of that building, I felt lucky to be breathing such rarefied
air.
 

As I walked up and down those beautiful, ancient marble steps in the House and Senate, I ran my hand carefully along the sturdy marble banister and imagined Presidents and leaders throughout history touching those same banisters, walking those same steps.  I pondered what was running through their minds as they touched those places I was now touching, and what weighty decisions were being made in those moments.  I was breathing history for those four days, and I believe every American could gain a whole new perspective by spending time in our nation’s capital.   

Those buildings are sacred ground.  They are ground zero for the decisions that affect every day of our lives.  Regardless of political party, the energy in those buildings is palpable.  There is a rush of activity, yet a kind of hushed silence.  Statues line the halls and there’s a reverence in the air and a keen awareness of the important matters taking place.   

As I watched Wednesday’s events unfold, I was unable to reconcile the horrific images before me with my experience all those years ago.  I was reminded of a quote from Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” 

That’s America now.  Decency and respect are out the window.  The marauders revealed themselves for the lawless, knuckle-dragging thugs that they truly are: carrying pipe bombs and zip ties and other weapons, stealing laptops with classified information as well as other items, defecating and smearing feces on the walls and floors, attacking the police they hypocritically pretend to “back.”  Taking grinning pictures and videos of themselves, bragging with misguided bravado about their crimes. Erecting a gallows on the grounds and chanting for the hanging of elected officials.  There’s little doubt that, if not for the heroic actions of some of the officers there, there would have been a massacre. 

To review, these are the same people who were horrified when others wanted racist statues removed... that was desecration!  They were outraged by looters during national disasters... those were thugs!  They justified the rubber bullets and tear gas used against peaceful protesters and bystanders in Portland... they shouldn’t be there!  They were scandalized by athletes who would kneel during the national anthem... how disrespectful of our flag... as they create a fake flag from a bastardized version of the American flag, then get angry with police and stomp it into the ground.  They screamed at us in the Women’s March, on a Saturday in 2017, to “get a job!”... as they fly cross-country to commit crimes and make fools of themselves in the middle of a workday.  And they cheered when their leader signed an Executive Order a few months back mandating a 10-year sentence for anyone who desecrated federal property...that might not end well. 

According to Webster’s, “terrorism” is defined as: 1 : the unlawful use or threat of violence especially against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion. 2 : violent and intimidating gang activity street terrorismOther Words from terrorismterrorist \ - ist \ adjective or noun. 

Make no mistake, these were not protesters or rioters.  They were terrorists; they had this planned for weeks.  To claim they were Antifa is the height of willful denial.  Does anyone honestly believe that any Antifa person would be in that crowd?  What do you suppose would happen to someone who announced that they were Antifa in that crowd... the same crowd that trampled a young woman to death; beat a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher, and nearly crushed another one in a door?  I think we all know the answer.  And in his statement that day, Trump said he loved them and that they were special.  Nobody believes he would speak to Antifa that way; he knows they were his supporters.  The group included off duty officers and some Republican state elected officials who have been vocal in their support for Trump.  Recent video shows some police welcoming the mob into the building; would they do that for Antifa?  I think not, so let’s not be delusional.  

We can all agree that 2020 was a horrible year, and this was no way to start a new one.  We are shell-shocked and exhausted, and this makes the attack even more egregious.  As much as I despise Trump and all for which he stands, I don’t wish for an angry mob to zip tie him, kidnap and execute him.  It is hard to imagine embodying that level of hatred and malice. 

That’s my struggle.  I thought that this horrific attack might be a game changer for Trump apologists.  I naively thought there was no way that people I once considered to be sane would do anything but condemn this brutal behavior.  Instead, some of them are doubling down.  This cult has infiltrated mainstream America in an ugly way, to the point that people are now justifying terrorist activity in our nation’s capital.  

I am deeply ashamed of what I have seen.  I am angry and filled with a deep sense of darkness to hear people I know, or thought I knew, defending these terrorists, simply because they are aligned politically with them.  The “law and order” party appears to care about law and order only when it involves other people.  There needs to be accountability. 

We will get through this; Congress came back that same day and did exactly what they set out to do that morning before being rudely interrupted.  Unfortunately, five people are dead because of the selfish coup attempt, and it’s shaken our overall sense of security to know that our fellow citizens feel somehow entitled to do a thing like this.  I’m not going to say that this isn’t who we are, because it’s who at least some of us are and they’re proud of it.  

Where do we go from here? I’m not ready to “unify” and make nice, and I can’t imagine any Republican being willing to if a mob of Joe Biden fans broke in and did what that mob did.  They did it while waving American flags, Confederate flags and Trump flags.  Nothing patriotic there.   

There will be no healing until there is accountability.  It’s like killing someone’s family member and immediately demanding forgiveness; it doesn’t work that way.  The FBI has pictures and videos and this isn’t over.  The American people deserve justice for this disgusting, horrific attack on our homeland and citizens.   

None of us can control the way the country was founded.  We can’t undo slavery, or the genocide of Native tribes, or any of the other wrongs that go back generations before any of us were here.  But we’re here now, and we bear responsibility for the present and the future.  There MUST be accountability and a strong message sent that we will not tolerate this ugly violation of American rights and safety.  We all know that terrorists who are not held accountable are only emboldened.  If there’s to be any unity at all, we must unite behind this concept, and it seems like a simple one: terrorism isn’t okay.  If we can’t even do that, if America is too far gone, then God help us. 

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