January 7, 2021—What happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington was an outrage. The populist siege and occupation of the Capitol building during a live joint session of the U.S. Congress was reprehensible. What is more, the Congress was hard at work receiving and formalizing the outcome of the Electoral College, and thus at making official the results of the direct vote of the American people for President Joe Biden in the national election of 2020. President Donald Trump incited this riot through his overheated rhetoric, his big lie about winning the election that he in fact lost, and by directly riling up his right-wing, populist supporters in Washington, DC for an otherwise peaceful protest, and calling on them to march on the Capitol itself in a speech to them in Washington that very morning.
I feel robbed. I had hoped to write a blog post at the appropriate time celebrating the election of our incoming President-elect, Joe Biden, Democrat of Wilmington, Delaware. I wanted to congratulate Joe Biden on his win and look forward with him to a great first term. Instead, I find myself commenting yet again on President Donald Trump’s foolish antics, which rise above the level of just being able to ignore him, and hoping that he does not cause too much damage in his normal, classic-Donald-Trump sort of way. By inciting this riot inside the Capitol itself during a live session of Congress, our elected representative government in the United States of America, President Donald Trump has truly outdone himself, even by his own low standards.
In so doing, President Donald Trump won the day. He made himself, once again, the center of all attention, even as attention was supposed to be officially shifting away from him at the very end of his presidency. Trump disrupted and blocked the smooth, peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next, even if only temporarily, lasting for several hours until the Capitol Police and National Guard and local State Police were able to restore order.
It should be noted that after order was restored in the Capitol building, the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and the House of Representative acting in joint session, finished their business. Working well into the night and early hours of the next morning in a marathon session, the U.S. Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty and named Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next, incoming U.S. administration, after formally counting all of the votes of the Electoral College. In the end, justice was done, and the results of the U.S. popular election for President and Vice President were upheld.
I guess President Trump was not ready to go quietly into that good night. He wanted to go out with a bang. That he did. I think of the current pop song, “Bang!” by AJR. Although Donald Trump probably cost his Republican Party the control of the U.S. Senate by sabotaging their campaign in Georgia, and although he personally endangered his own Vice President, Mike Pence, Republican, and the Republican leadership and members of the Senate during his stunt, Donald Trump was preparing for his political life after leaving office. He has a new, rich Political Action Committee (PAC) and a fired-up and loyal, right-wing populist base, even if they are rioting against his own political party in the current U.S. Congress and government. He fed them the Congress. Donald Trump is now a treacherous Republican in his own political party with a renewed future as a demagogue in that same party once he leaves office. In this way, Donald Trump is being a classic version of his own self, Donald Trump, as he leaves office and enters life as a private citizen. Let us hope he has no more surprises up his sleeve, and he cannot ruin American democracy and government any more than he already has at this time, now at the end of his term.
It should be noted that Trump’s latest antic represents an historic attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The fact that this attack stems from the Office of the President of the U.S. is, itself, deeply ironic. Never before in the history of this Republic have the people stormed Congress and their elected representatives present at the time and hard at work as elected representatives. Only once before in the 200+-year history of this Republic has this U.S. Capitol come under fire, directly. That was in the War of 1812 when the British burned it down. It was subsequently rebuilt after the U.S. won that war. I hate to have to say it, but I feel it must be said. It is up to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. government to rebuild the U.S. Capitol once again. The dignity and honor and grace, and yes, integrity, of the United States of America, as symbolized in the U.S. Capitol Building, itself, must be rebuilt and restored.
To the extent that democracy rules in America, with our representative and direct democracy for the Office of the President, to that extent the U.S. Capitol, itself, embodies that ideal. Its dignity must be restored.
Unfortunately, there were injuries and even deaths associated with this riot inside the Capitol, yesterday. One woman, a rioter herself, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer who was defending the Capitol Rotunda itself with U.S. Congressional Representatives still inside the room. She was a part of a mob attempting to invade the room. An officer discharged his weapon to defend the room and the Representatives still inside, and in so doing, he killed the woman. The invading crowd dispersed. Although the crowd later did make it into the room, the Representatives were able to be safely evacuated by the police, first. We can argue whether the shooting and the killing were justified, but the death, in any case, was tragic. It is always a tragedy when an American citizen and person dies in this way, even if the shooting could be considered necessary to defend the American representative government, and the Representatives, themselves, who otherwise would have been gravely endangered. Again, we can argue whether the shooting and killing were, in fact, justified, but the fact is that the officer was doing his job in a very immediate, personal, and direct fashion. It is a tragedy that this officer had to be put into this position, also, in the first place.
The other three deaths were reportedly medical emergencies that occurred during the course of the riots. Also tragic is the fact that several Capitol Police officers sustained injuries during the course of doing their jobs, defending, literally, the seat of American democracy, and the elected Representatives, themselves. None of this should have happened. It never should have happened in our American democracy.
I should note that had the rioters only subscribed to the value and morality of nonviolence, then none of this tragedy would have occurred. They could have protested peacefully outside, as so many have done before in our Republic, and no invasion of the Capitol itself would have happened. Trump could have had his day, and no serious consequences would have resulted.
Such was not the case. As Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said from the Senate floor later that night, January 6 will always be a day that will live in infamy in our Republic, and in our country.
Now, it is time to rebuild, and to re-assemble the dignity and honor of our Republic.
Sources: The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC: 1/7/2021, p. 1A); National Public Radio (NPR), via WFAE 90.7 FM (Charlotte, NC), 1/6/2021, 1/7/2021; WBT Radio 1110 AM (Charlotte, NC); CNN; ABC; CBS; President-elect Joe Biden, speech, televised, 1/7/2021.