Barbarians at the Gates of Democracy
Updated: Jan 11
January 6th, 2021 will go down as a horrific day in our nation's history. In addition to over 4000 Americans dying from Covid, we saw an attack on the very heart of our democracy. The events that unfolded would end with six dead Americans and a multitude of injured police officers. An angry horde of the President's spurred supporters breached the United States Congress in a bumbling keystone-cop attempt to silence the voice of the American voter.
Reports indicate a 42 year old Capitol Police officer named Brian Sicknick was among the dead. Serving in the first responder unit, he succumbed to his injuries after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. He has been taken off life support. A woman was shot dead attempting to breach a barricaded door. Another was trampled by the mob. In a twisted irony she was holding the Gadsden flag with the motto "Don't Tread on Me" Three days after the attack, a Capitol Police officer name Howard Liebengood committed suicide. Assigned to the Senate division he was the son of the late Howard S. Liebengood, a former Senate sergeant-at-arms, prominent lobbyist and chief of staff for two Republican senators. All needless deaths in the name of conspiracy and delusion.
Reports indicate rioters“actively attacked” Capitol police and other law enforcement officers with metal pipes, pepper spray and other weapons. Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and firearms were recovered. Photos showed rioters grasping multiple zip cuffs as if in preparation of taking prisoners. A gallows was built. Calls made to hang the Vice President. Windows smashed. Offices ransacked. Documents stolen. Feces spread on walls.. An armed standoff at the chamber doors. Blood was spilled in the hallways of Congress as stoic statues of our founding fathers stared down at the ensuing melee. Democracy put on hold as terrorism sullied the halls of Congress.
It was not the first time Congress was breached. During the war of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C. Not the Beatles. British soldiers. Forget broken windows. These invaders managed to burn down the entire US Capitol. In 1954, members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist party entered the gallery and opened fire. Five members of Congress were wounded. Luckily, no one was killed. On July 24, 1998, a man named Russell Eugene Weston Jr. entered the Capitol and opened fire. Officers Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson were killed. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Weston was put in a mental institution. The nation endured. Democracy moved on.
I have been privileged to visit Congress on multiple occasions. My claim to fame is drinking a Polish beer and eating pierogi in the offices of the US Senate. (I was there to present an award to General Edward Rowny, a personal hero of mine) In addition to members of Congress, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many staffers including Capitol police officers, congressional aides, cafeteria workers, tour guides and others. They are proud to work within those solemn walls. It is disheartening to think of them subjected to yesterday's terror. To hear an officer died in the line of duty is gut wrenching. I imagined many called loved ones as armed gunmen roamed the halls. I thank them for their service. Whether it be a student or a member of Congress, no one should have to experience such abject terror.
By 3:30 PM, the Senate Floor was cleared of the rioters as the mob was pushed back to the rotunda Approximately 52 people were arrested including Connecticut residents Victoria Bergeson and Maurcio Mendez. At 40, both old enough to know better. By 5:30 PM. the halls of Congress were secure. Both chambers of Congress eventually took their seats to continue their work on behalf of their constituents.
How had it come to this? We were all Americans. We all love baby Yoda. We all want what's best for our families. Are we really at each others throats over well coiffed politicians with whitened teeth? Family members and childhood friends attacking each other on social media. Terms like Nazis and Communists being thrown around with no real understanding of the terms. When did Timmy become such a whack job? He was so normal in high school. Unfriending at record speed because they couldn't stand another criticism of Biden or Trump. Are we really that far apart? And when did the weirdness start of flying flags with the names of politicians emblazoned on them? Stick with Old Glory. It's creepy.
I wondered how seemingly educated people could be so removed from reality. Qanon nonsense tops the list. Most of us have smart phones where we can access a treasure trove of man's knowledge. Didn't people have common sense? What person in their right mind believes in the absolute absurdity of Qanon? JFK Jr. is still alive. Tom Hanks and Oprah involved in a sex child ring involving satanic rituals. Are yah nuts? I'll let you in on a secret. I was working for a member of the Kennedy family when John F. Kennedy Jr. tragically died in a plane crash. I can assure you JFK Jr. is not alive. If he was, he's not teaming up with the former host of the Apprentice.
Of course, I am sure others questioned my positions on various subjects. He's a lawyer. How does he not see what I see? Judging by comments on my social media pages, some saw yesterday's events through a completely different lens. Considering how odd some comments were, I can only surmise those glasses were made out of fun house mirrors.
Atlantic Magazine's David Graham warned us about the gaslighting to come. He suggested we should try to remember what the day was like as "Somebody might try to convince you it was different very soon". He was absolutely correct. Immediately, social media was inundated with apologists suggesting the attack was no big deal. Some suggested the rioters were actually patriots defending the republic. Or undercover BLM & Antifa agents. Others made grand speeches about the need to refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants. They were ready to answer the call. "Give me a break" I thought. "You drive a Corolla and live with your mother. You sound ridiculous" Still others went into long tirades replete with whataboutisms, false comparisons. easily debunked conspiracy theories and just a wide eyed cult-like denial of the days events. Some die hard supporters of the president seemed more concerned with Trump's Twitter account than this brazen attack on our democratic process. Were we really that far apart as a country? If I had a steady diet of conspiracy theories for 4 years, would I think the same way? If you only read Breitbart or watch Newsmax, you are sure to have an angry chip on your shoulder. As a nation, we couldn't even agree to wear masks during a viral pandemic. I thought that was a no-brainer. Couldn't they see the emperor had no clothes? It was horrible how the situation escalated. (I think one guy even had a trident).
Of course, I do not equate all Trump supporters with the mob that attacked Congress. The vast majority of protesters on both sides of the aisle were relatively peaceful whether the subject be taxes, vaccines, reproductive rights, elections, racism or a host of other issues. They do not deserve to be painted with a broad brush. They are exercising their constitutional rights. On the other hand, when political hyperbole rises to a true threat of violence, your actions fall outside the scope of the First Amendment. We have seen businesses destroyed and looted in Seattle. A woman murdered in Charlottesville. Terror used in Washington D.C. in a woefully misinformed attempt to overturn an election based on conspiracy nonsense pushed by a delusional man.
Eventually, reality has to set in. Trump lost the popular vote. Over seven million more Americans voted for the president's opponent. Trump lost the electoral college vote. Joe Biden won by a wide margin There were multiple recounts. Trump and his allies made over 60 court challenges. They were easily dismissed. They couldn't produce any evidence of substance. Many of the lawsuits were thrown out by conservative judges. Fifty states certified their election results. As always, Republicans and Democrats worked the polls side by side. How much more proof do you possibly need to know that the turkey is done? The fat lady has sung to the point her voice is hoarse.
Do people really believe that Hugo Chavez stole this election? Spoiler alert: The guy died in 2013. Or as Roger Stone suggested, North Korean ships delivered ballots through Maine. Had these people ever seen a map? Wouldn't California be a closer port? Do some really believe there was a national conspiracy that would have required conservative and liberal judges, postal workers across the country, various media, Republican and Democratic election officials, elected representatives, secretaries of state, election volunteers, and others working secretly in sync to deny Trump a win? Or is the truth more simple. Do you know why Biden won? Not complicated. He got more votes. The bottom line is sometimes your horse simply doesn't win. But I digress..
In the end, it's a new morning. Democracy moves forward. Hopefully we can remember that we are all Americans and we can move on together to face new challenges