To witness what took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th was so disheartening for a number of reasons, some philosophical and others personal.
The personal first. When I was 17 years old, I reported to the Washington Marine Barracks, the oldest post in the Marine Corps, located eight blocks from the U.S. Capitol. For the next two and half years, I, along with my fellow Marines, performed ceremonial duties in Washington and across the Potomac River at Arlington National Cemetery.
On Memorial Day, 1958, my unit was part of the ceremonial guard that brought the caskets of the WWII and Korean War Unknowns from the Capitol rotunda to the awaiting horse-drawn cessions and then eventually to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, where President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon waited for the soldiers' interment.
Then 50 years later, in December of 2007, a nine-day journey from Vermont came to an end when 82 of us delivered the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to the Capitol staff. The tree convoy of 22 antique trucks stopped at eight veteran hospitals and cities on the way to DC. After the tree was erected on the Capitol lawn, we brought Senator Leahy’s office a slice (or cookie) of the tree as a souvenir.
Neither my Marine duties nor the tree delivery was the same scene that one witnessed, on the lawn, on January 6th.
In between the 50 years, I had several other occasions to visit the Capitol, which to me is the physical symbol of the bastion of democracy—a sacred place. On January 6th, several thousand people did not share my feelings and took it upon themselves to invade, desecrate, and harm that symbol and its inhabitants.
What is worse and even more disheartening is to hear the soundbites from President Trump in support of the protesters, egging them on to bring destruction to this historic building and grounds. In a flash, my four years of attempting to support the Trump Presidency was stripped from me.
Like tens of millions of other Americans, I was willing to look the other way when it came to the character accusations against Trump--initially, during his candidacy and then his Administration since 2017. I believed the issues he was addressing were more important. On January 6th, that justification was proved wrong. No justification is acceptable that would bring harm to our nation’s democracy. The line was crossed, and we will pay dearly, for years, for what transpired on January 6th.
We can’t wait years to address what ails America. The problems before the Biden Administration and future administrations are too critical for America and the World.
The issues of globalization, immigration, China/Iran/Russia, inflation, climate change, pandemics, employment, health/mental care, education, and diversity/inclusion will not wait to be addressed. Nor will it be acceptable to approach any of these issues with a “take it or leave it” attitude.
For all too long, respect has been lacking, and the benefits of compromise ignored. It is time that they are brought back. And in doing so, all Americans should now realize that “the money” needs to be flushed out of our democratic processes--especially primaries and elections. Candidates from all parties need to place their pledge on the table not to accept dollars from any source that is only interested in buying their vote and influence.
And let us not ignore the role that lobbyists play in Washington and our state capitols. The only lobbyists our elected politicians should be answering are the voters and no one else.
Yes, this sounds quite sanctimonious, I admit. What happened on January 6th must never be repeated. For such an assault to have happened, we need to reflect on what brought about the quality of people we were willing to have represent us. If we don’t learn from this horrible experience, let us prepare for the next assault on democracy.
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