On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a hoard of self-proclaimed patriots, some of them armed, stormed our nation’s Capitol, broke windows, and destroyed furniture. Five people would end up dead, but thanks to Capitol Police and The Secret Service, no lawmakers were flayed or hung.
I had been out running errands and stopped to see Helen and Judy. They were pampering me with chocolate and pashmina as this went down. When I climbed back into my car, I turned on the radio and listened in disbelief. It was one of those this-can’t-be-happening moments.
I was nine years old the last time my world view was shaken to this degree. Like every other pink-faced elementary school student, I was swept up in Kennedy’s Camelot. I believed our leaders were good men, revered and invincible.
John F. Kennedy’s assassination turned these assumptions inside out and I was floored, my sense of reality crushed like a mouse beneath a hard-soled boot.
In the days following January 6, details of the riot settled into my chest like a bad cold, shattering my belief that regardless of our political leanings, we were all Americans who held some things sacred. That life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness did not include permission to ransack the capitol in search of the Vice President and other lawmakers who had been labeled traitors by their leader. I believed that a President would never incite an insurrection and that if he did he would meet with swift justice.
Now I know that all bets are off, anything can happen, and some will stop at nothing to achieve their moment of glory. I see that our national bloodstream is infected with people who believe the system must be shredded but who have no plan for how to replace the essential services provided by that system. And that a corrupt, delusional leader can retain a 30% approval rating.
I’ve lived in the third world, with potholes big enough to swallow a motorcycle, intermittent water and electricity, and undisguised corruption. I’ve seen how hard it is to survive when it’s every-man-for-himself, where mayhem is beyond control. It isn’t pretty and it is not what I want for my children and grandchildren.
January 6 was my red pill/blue pill moment, a gut punch to my understanding of the human race. It only took a few broken windows to see that reality has always been subjective, that we never were a union, and that there never was equal justice for all.
Ultimately, I did get my head around Kennedy’s death, and was reborn as a wiser, albeit more jaded me. I hope to one day look back upon the Capitol siege with some kind of understanding.
Both sides agree that freedom and democracy are at stake. I want to think this is where our path forward begins.