This was not supposed to happen. At this point, we should not have to worry about the future of our nation. We have had more than 240 years to work out the kinks of this beautiful experiment. Where have we failed?
We have certainly been tested. We have faced previous insurrections, a civil war, riots, foreign terrorist attacks on our own soil, and presidential assassinations. Each time, we have rebounded, stronger than before. Why must we now fear attacks from our own citizens?
I loved my American History classes in school. I memorized the presidents, each of whom, even the “failed” ones, held a special place in my heart. Most were faded black and white images in the school encyclopedia set. What a thrill it was to finally see a color photograph of a president (Harry S Truman), followed by Ike, JFK, and the rest.
My teachers shared the lessons that still live with me today. America, unlike so many other nations, got it right. We held fair and free elections. No dictator could take control of our government. Other nations had been overtaken by evil forces who controlled the lives of their citizens, but not us.
I could grow up to be an astronaut, an architect, or the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves. It was entirely up to me. Those career options didn’t work out, but I ended up doing what I loved, with no government control or influence. It was my own American dream come true.
At an early age, my family visited Washington D.C. Much like those presidents, the black and white images I had seen on TV blossomed into full color. The White House, the monuments, and the Capitol, in all their majestic splendor. It made a huge impression on a 7-year-old.
I took my oldest son on the same trip when he was 11. He too was a history buff, and fell in love with the city. U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, who could tell you the history of each square foot of the building, was the ideal tour guide. My son vowed that he would live and work there some day. He made good on that promise, and he has worked there for eight years. He is still in awe of the scenery, as he plays softball in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
Until December 2019, he worked in the Capitol, for two different members of the House of Representatives. He was about 30 minutes away, in Virginia on Jan. 6, when angry protesters marched toward our beloved Capitol, scaling walls and smashing out windows in an apparent effort to harm some of our elected officials. By now you know the details of the vandalism, the violence, and the arrests. My son was horrified upon seeing the images. This is his Capitol. My Capitol. Your Capitol.
It was being attacked because members of our own country disagreed with results of a presidential election that had been legally certified in all 50 states, with arguments to overturn the results shut down by judges all the way to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Attorney General said there was no evidence of widespread fraud. The U.S. Senate agreed, by a vote of 93-6. None of this stopped the turmoil.
This is not normal. In America, the winning side prevails. The losing side concedes, and gets another chance in the next election. This system has worked well for us.
Not this time. Other nations were stunned, terrified, and in some cases, laughing at us. We thought we were above the fray. We can no longer say that.
The FBI warns us that this is only the beginning. A substantial portion of Americans justifies the chaos at the Capitol by comparing it to previous disturbances in recent years. Still others are convinced the vandalism and bloodshed were worth it, because they have seen YouTube videos of alleged election irregularities. Those have been debunked repeatedly, but it doesn’t matter. They follow misinformation spreaders who thrive on stirring unrest. Some foreign dictators might as well take a break from their efforts to weaken America. We’re doing their job for them.
As divided as we were in the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, with civil rights battles, multiple assassinations, an unpopular war, and a disgraced president who was forced to resign, at least no one staged such an attack on our Capitol. In the five decades since, we have displayed strong resilience, recovering from more assassination attempts, a hostage crisis, Desert Storm, the 9/11 attacks, natural disasters, a crippling recession, and a pandemic.
During each of those challenges, I felt like we Americans were on the same team, fighting back together. Now, I cannot say that. What happened to us?