On January 7, 2021, the day after the insurrection took place at the Capitol, I jotted down some thoughts on Facebook about what I was feeling and what I thought the future held for our nation. I was in shock about what I had witnessed on January 6, and I was doing my best to wrap my head around how something like the attack on the Capitol could happen here in the United States.
I’ve reprinted my thoughts from that day below. I’ve also included some additional thoughts (bolded and in italics) in response to those I shared a year ago. Even with the benefit of time and hindsight, I’m not sure I’m any closer to understanding how we could suffer this type of political and criminal uprising, and I certainly don’t understand how, after living through what happened on January 6, people can still dismiss it, defend it, and even support it.
Here’s my conversation with myself about the January 6, 2021 insurrection:
After a day like yesterday, how do we, as a nation, move forward?
This morning, I am struggling to find the words to adequately explain what we saw yesterday in DC. It’s easy to use words like “coup d’état” and “insurrection” to describe what happened in the Capitol, but those words only scratch the surface. To be sure, the words are accurate, but they fail to describe the emotions associated with the acts.
Even a year later, the emotions surrounding January 6 are still very raw. But rather than being predominately emotions of disbelief and sadness, the overriding emotion is one of anger. What happened on January 6–including what and who instigated it–is unforgivable. The fact that none of the people responsible for planning, organizing, financing, and carrying out the Stop the Steal rally that preceded and encouraged the insurrection have been punished is not only disheartening, it’s dangerous. It’s paramount to an open invitation to the insurrectionists to give the coup another try.
I am on the verge of disbelief. I know what I saw with my own eyes, but even after four years of the worst president in our country’s history, I was still unprepared to process what happened. I’m still trying to come to terms with how and why a putsch like this could happen in the United States. What I feel more confident about is how we must move forward if we are to avoid similar attempts to overthrow our government.
First, every single person who can be identified as involved in yesterday’s takeover of the Capitol must be tried, and if convicted, punished severely for their illegal actions. If anyone in the future thinks about following in the footsteps of these insurrectionists, they should know that they could pay a very high price.
This makes so much sense, yet we’re not doing it. Several of the January 6 foot soldiers have been convicted on relatively low-level criminal charges, receiving little more than wrist slaps in many cases, but none of the people who organized and encouraged the insurrection have been held to account. This is a national disgrace. I still hold out hope that all involved will be held accountable, but as each day passes, my confidence that this will happen decreases.
Second, we need to know how security at the Capitol failed so miserably. Not only did Capitol police not prevent insurrectionists from entering the Capitol, in many cases, they assisted them. I’ve seen videos and photos of police taking selfies with the mob, moving barricades to make it easier for the mob to enter the Capitol, and helping people up the Capitol steps. This was a massive failure. Why did it happen? How did it happen? These protests were not a surprise. They had been planned for weeks. We need to know what happened so we can make sure it never happens again.
It’s funny how my perspective on this has changed. The day after the insurrection, one of my main concerns was the possible involvement of police at the Capitol that day. It’s true, I had seen videos of police escorting insurrectionists into the Capitol, as well as holding doors for them and taking selfies with them. It was a really bad look. But it was only a partial and misleading look.
Since then, overwhelming video evidence has made it clear that the police were under attack that day. They may have been overly accommodating due to being so badly outnumbered, but they did not invite in the insurrectionists nor did they simply turn the Capitol over to those attacking them. They fought like mad to protect the Capitol and the elected officials inside. There were several acts of heroism and bravery that day by police whose efforts helped save lives and our democracy.
Having said that, an important question remains: why were police so ill-prepared that day for what happened? The evidence was clear that the Stop the Steal protest posed a danger of getting out of hand. There’s also reason to question why the National Guard wasn’t deployed sooner. Testimony before Congress since January 6 has been inconclusive, but one thing is certain. Someone is lying. The contradicting stories told by National Guard and DOD officials cannot both be true. Answers are needed. We can’t simply shrug our shoulders and move on without getting to the bottom of things.
Third, politicians who shared easily debunked lies with the American people, and encouraged their supporters to rise up and “Stop the Steal” must be held accountable for spreading misinformation.
As an example, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) knew that there was no widespread voter fraud. He knew that courts across the country had already ruled on lawsuits claiming fraud and unconstitutional vote counting methods. He knew that objecting to electors from Pennsylvania would not only cause damage to our democracy, but that such objection would fail. Yet, he moved forward with his objection, even after insurrectionists had taken over the Capitol. His actions accomplished nothing other than ingratiating himself with Trump supporters. It was a cynical ploy that violated his oath, but Hawley moved forward with it anyway, putting his own selfish interests ahead of the needs of the country.
Of course, Josh Hawley wasn’t the only Congressperson spreading misinformation and inciting rioters. There are hundreds of them, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Ron Johnson (R-WI), as well as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA), Louis Gohmert (R-TX), etc. They must be held to account. It may not be possible to remove them from office until the next election, but in the meantime, they must be marginalized. The actions they took to destroy our democracy is a stain they should never be allowed to wash away.
This may be the most infuriating facet of this whole sorry affair. Even today, GOP members of Congress continue to deal in lies and conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection. They claim it was instigated by Antifa and BLM. The say it was organized by the FBI. They claim the insurrectionists were no worse than a tour group. They say the insurrectionists are patriots who love this country. They call those being held for the role they played in the insurrection “political prisoners,” and advocate for their release.
The people intentionally gaslighting us about what happened that day are just as bad as the clueless, misinformed minions who stormed the Capitol. They used lies to radicalize their supporters, and use more lies now to try to make the insurrection into something it was not.
If there’s a common theme to what I have written about the insurrection, it is that those responsible–including those elected officials who lied before, and continue to lie now, in an effort to confuse and radicalize–must be held accountable. This is not an option. It is necessary for the survival of our democracy and our way of life.
Finally, Donald Trump must be held to account for his lies and criminal actions. In the short-term, he should be impeached (It’s probably too late) or removed under the 25th Amendment (more likely). After yesterday, we can not have a president who encouraged violence against the Congress and our democracy, and who still refuses to accept the results of the election. He’s only in office for two more weeks, but he can cause further chaos and damage to the country in that time. He has to go.
Sadly, neither impeachment nor the 25th Amendment occurred in time to get Trump out of office before the last day of his term.
In the long-term, Trump’s time in office must be investigated and he must be held accountable for any illegal activity he participated in. Even if the incoming administration decides not to punish Trump (something I suspect Biden will do), as a nation, we must still have a full accounting of the actions, legal and illegal, that occurred on Trump’s watch.
I believe that then and still believe it now. Trump’s time in office, particularly his role in organizing and encouraging the insurrection, must be investigated and, if appropriate, punished. No country can afford to allow their highest elected official and commander of their armed forces to plan a coup d’etat and plot the overturning of a free and fair election without seeking to punish such behavior.
The January 6 Select Committee continues to investigate the insurrection, and Rep Liz Cheney (R-WY) seems intent on looking closely at the role Trump played in it. That investigation is critical to finding out what Trump did to organize and encourage the insurrectionists. But no investigation is necessary to know what Trump didn’t do.
For more than three hours while the Capitol was under siege and elected officials, including Vice-President Mike Pence, were in grave danger, Trump didn’t send in the military. He didn’t lift a finger to try to stop the attack. Even as people like Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows begged him to call off his dogs, he refused. This failure to act–this dereliction of duty–by itself is worthy of the DOJ bringing charges against him. As a nation, we cannot have closure from this event without holding everyone involved, particularly the president, accountable
These are easy and obvious calls to make. What is more difficult to figure out is, how do we as citizens move forward. At the moment, we live in a country where half of the citizens don’t share the same reality as the other half. Democracy cannot survive in a country where the citizens cannot agree on objective facts.
Trump and his supporters in Congress have spread misinformation that has disconnected half the population from reality, and which have radicalized a large group of people who are willing to attack and destroy our democracy. They have done this for selfish political purposes, and as of now, they have not had to answer for it.
Calling out and punishing politicians is the easy part. It should be the job of our elected officials to tell us the truth. Failing to do that should carry a high cost. But what about those of us not in Congress?
It would be easy to say that we need to tone down the rhetoric and accept the opinions of our fellow citizens. It seems nice, but how can those who love democracy co-exist with those hellbent on destroying it?
Our democracy is a fragile thing. We are only one election away from losing it. Those who would prefer an authoritarian government, such as those supporting Trump, can not be allowed to get a foothold in Congress or in the White House.
In other words, we should not endeavor to make a compromise with those that would damage or destroy our democracy. Rather than come together, we must crush the forces that push for authoritarianism, including far right-wing groups, white supremacist groups, neo-nazis, and others, including those who would prefer a kleptocracy, that would benefit the wealthy and burden the rest of us. We can give no quarter to these people. We cannot compromise nor can we attempt to appease. Our democracy cannot survive any accommodation with those that would destroy it.
This is still the case. We cannot work with those intent on destroying the thing we hold the dearest. That which we work for–the strengthening and continuation of our democracy–is exactly what the other side wants to destroy. There is no compromise we can reach with them. No common ground we can find. The forces of authoritarianism cannot be accommodated. For democracy to survive, they must be destroyed.