The assault on the American people and the U.S. Capitol building by violent right-wing thugs is unprecedented in the history of the republic. The Weather Underground set off a bomb in the Capitol in 1971, and there have been other attacks by extremists, but mobs haven’t stormed the Capitol—not even before, during, or after the Civil War. There were also no mob incursions into the Capitol during the Vietnam protests.
This sort of thing doesn’t happen in America. Except now, it does. Donald Trump and his supporters may pride themselves on shattering tradition, overturning the status quo, giving the middle finger to the “establishment” (who, it turns out, is anyone who disagrees with them), and blowing up the established order. But there are consequences. By enabling the rats and cockroaches of society to crawl out of the dark places, where they were hiding, and into the light of day, Trump and the rest of us on the right must atone for our sins.
I say the rest of us because all of us on the right tried to minimize the danger and are responsible for what happened today. We empowered these people by dismissing them as nutcases or inconsequential — a bunch of gun-toting, redneck yahoos. But give them a cause and a small push and suddenly, they become a dangerous force.
That “cause” was their president telling them the country was under attack from far-left forces who stole the election that he rightfully won. Whether you believe that or not is immaterial. There is never, ever any reason to attack “The People’s House.” For 232 years, the republic stood because people respected that house and treated it as sacred. They may have angrily disagreed with what went on there, but the thought of physically assaulting this temple of American constitutional liberty was alien to them.
It’s what makes me think the people who assaulted the Capitol don’t love America — at least, any America I want to live in. America means so many things to so many people that there’s usually room enough for all sorts of Americas — including a socialist America and a far-right America.
But most of us believe in an America somewhere in between. It now must be up to we who believe in the in-between Americas to stand up and be counted.
Many of us can’t be bothered. We’re too busy fiddling with our smartphones to look up and see what’s happening. But maybe after today, some things will change. Maybe some on the right who dismissed the violent element in our midst will recognize the danger and fight it. Maybe some on the left will recognize the passions let loose and enabled by groups like Black Lives Matter and antifa and also see the danger.
Maybe we can all take a small step toward sanity and reason as a result of this frightening attack. Otherwise, we are without hope. And if that ever happens, this nation conceived and built on hope will fall.