Forum, Jan. 12: Attack on Capitol left me feeling violated, vulnerable

Published: 1/11/2021 10:00:26 PM
Modified: 1/11/2021 10:00:04 PM
Attack on Capitol left me feeling violated, vulnerable

I wept at my desk as I saw the events of Wednesday, Jan. 6, unfold at our Capitol, the symbol for a democratic style of government around the world. It has been more 200 years since our country experienced something like this, the War of 1812. I believe the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth and I felt personally attacked, violated and vulnerable.

One particular image, of a man proudly parading a Confederate flag inside the Capitol building, was jarring. Historians say the flag never made it inside the building as part of an insurrection, even during the Civil War. Others broke windows as they stormed in wearing red, white and blue apparel and holding flags that were mostly different from the one to which we pledge our allegiance.

They continued their desecration by rubbing blood on the bust of a former U.S. president. This may be America, but it is not my America and does not represent the best of us.

The event forced a lot of reflection about patriotism and what it means to love and take pride in your country. As someone who was born outside of the United States and who obtained citizenship, I often think about the privilege it is to live here. As one example, if I disagree with a vote or policy, I have the freedom to hold a sign in protest and express an opposing view. Patriotism is more than circling a name on a ballot every two or four years. It is staying informed and embracing truth, even when it challenges your own belief system. It is making decisions that are for the better of the community or country. Most important, it is always striving to be a better, kinder citizen so we may have a nation where opportunity and prosperity can be had — by all.



Gangster in the White House

On Wednesday, the president of the United States, two of his adult children and his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, stood before a mob of fanatical supporters and, after reiterating lies about a stolen presidential election, incited them to march on the U.S. Capitol. Shortly thereafter, that same frenzied mass burst violently into the nation’s most sacred architectural symbol of American democracy, and in their ensuing rampage sent members of Congress fleeing in terror, ransacked congressional offices and desks, planted some bombs and posed jubilantly for self-glorifying “selfies.”

As a result of this invasion of the Capitol, five people died.

As I try to understand how such horrific acts could have taken place — that is to say, how the constitutionally elected president of the United States could have sought openly to subvert and trample upon that same Constitution — I remember with painful vividness a lecture given at Dartmouth College in October 2019 by Adam Gopnik, a senior staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. He spoke broadly of the prescience of the framers of the U.S. Constitution in creating appropriate checks and balances so that presidents of every political stripe, even if they advocated extreme policies of what we might call today the radical left or the radical right, could still hold office and be checked by the other branches of the government from doing irreparable damage to the body politic.

But, as Gopnik observed wistfully in conclusion, the founders were not omniscient. They never made any provision for a gangster in the future White House, a chief executive utterly unmoored from any moral, philosophic or legal constraints and contemptuous of any concept of honor or public trust.


White River Junction

The destiny voters chose

No reasonable person who loves America would condone what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. However, the groundwork had been laid for this over several years, and not solely by the words and actions of Donald Trump.

I’d like to suggest a hypothetical scenario: Just for a moment, suppose Congress had assembled to ratify the reelection of Donald Trump. I theorize that the likelihood of a siege against the Capitol could have been just as great, but the difference would have been in how the Democrats and the media reacted to and interpreted it.

Why do I say that? Simply this: While the Capitol is the place where laws are made, courthouses are where justice is meted out and police stations are where laws are enforced. Considerable violence was committed against those places over a period of several months. Mobs battered in doors, broke windows and set them aflame in the name of “social justice.” So why are we surprised when thugs — not exclusively Trump supporters — give our beloved Capitol a similar treatment? I believe that when investigations are complete, the mix of suspects may include well-known opportunistic anarchists.

America has become a violent nation, whether it’s against infants in the womb or with people being shot or trampled to death in the streets. Violence has been committed against symbols of government in the toppling of statues and monuments, not all of which memorialized slaveholders, brutal racists or Confederate generals. Our national sense of morality and ethics is upside down in that we punish those who oppose abortion while rewarding those who profit from it.

It has been said that “elections have consequences,” and more than 80 million of us have voted to perpetuate prenatal violence by their choices. While I do not claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a direct consequence of those choices, we have suffered from trying to create a godless utopia — the ultimate oxymoron. Elections determine the destiny of most nations, and this is the destiny the majority of voters have chosen for America.



How fascism takes root

Getting rid of Donald Trump will not, unfortunately, get rid of the ignorant, delusional paranoia that has infected the Republican Party. Even after the U.S. Capitol was attacked and ransacked by a violent mob of right-wing thugs, 127 Republicans returned to their chambers and continued their attempts to overthrow the election. This does not bode well for America.

Nearly half of Americans bought Trump’s con — hook, line and sinker — and they won’t be abandoning their conspiracy-laden alternative reality anytime soon.

I have often wondered how fascism took root in Europe and Asia in the 1920s and ’30s. It is now abundantly clear that all you need is a madman, an ignorant, angry mob, and a body politic that readily accepts appeasement over the rule of law.



Call them all ‘traitors’

It’s time for the media, the Democratic Party and all of us opposed to what has been happening to use the word “traitor” for Donald Trump and the elected officials and Americans who continue to support attempts to overturn our democratic procedures, traditions and elections.

We need to start calling them out for what they are.


West Windsor

Criminalize Confederate flag

The Republicans are trying to see that “Dear Leader” Donald Trump faces no legal consequences for his coup attempt. It is the duty of all American citizens to see that does not happen. Republicans (they need to change the party name as they no longer qualify as republican) have claimed impeachment would be divisive. What could possibly be more divisive than what happened on Wednesday?

Speaking of divisiveness, in the treasonous coup attempt on that day, Confederate flags were on prominent display. So, the Confederate flag has traveled full circle. It began as a flag (or, more correctly, a variety of flags) representing treasonous insurrection, became a passive (and often aggressive) repudiation of the U.S. Constitution and government, and now again represents treasonous insurrection.

The Confederate flag no longer deserves free speech protection. It is time to do what every other country in the world does with flags of treason: criminalize the public display of any variation of the Confederate flag.



Remove parties from process

The response to recent events continues to place too much focus on the person of Donald Trump. It serves the interest of some to put the blame for all our current ills on him, but that is far from the truth.

Trump is a con man who took advantage of existing circumstances. The underlying cause of his success is clear. For at least 40 years, both major parties have served the needs of the wealthy and the corporations and shown little interest in the problems of the average citizen.

How is it that a clown like Trump could be elected president? Why in 2020 did almost half the voters choose Trump again? No one can claim that Trump supporters are a marginal group of deluded fools. They were certainly deluded to think that someone like Trump would be the answer to their hopes. But faced with a choice between more of the same and something different, almost anything can look good.

Widespread and justified disgust with the so-called serious political leaders is why so many voters have taken that route. Everyone sees that, regardless of which party is in office, all the benefits go to a small group of favored individuals and businesses. Thinking that will change now that Joe Biden and the Democrats are in control is just as delusional as voting for Trump.

Real change will not come until a way is found to put the government in the hands of true public servants who care more for the people who elect them than for their own personal careers and fortunes. Removing the Republican and Democratic parties from the electoral process would be a step in that direction.



Let’s restore our country

Recent Forum letters seem fixated on political hate. After the events of last week, let’s talk about restoring our country.

Everyone has their own priorities. I would like to see universal health care for all. Reimbursements will need to be higher than today’s Medicare payments. We need to work on better public education. Fixing our rotting infrastructure will provide good-paying jobs. Race relations must be improved. We need a living minimum wage related to the local cost of living. Tax laws should be reformed so that the rich and corporations pay their fair share while seniors are not forced from their homes by increases in local property taxes.

Women must be allowed to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference. We need adequate gun safety so that people who wish to own a gun get appropriate background checks and at least as much education as one needs to drive a car. We should decrease the military budget since ours equals the total of the next 10 countries and use of more of the military budget to care for those veterans with physical or mental illness secondary to their time of service.

Reintroduce the word “compromise” in political discussions at all levels. Recognize that we are destroying the environment with fossil fuels and by the introduction of more and more untested chemicals while trashing the world around us. And finally, understand that we live in a shrinking, interdependent world. It might also be time for many of our legislators to learn some history.

If we tried to do some or all of these, we might give everyone a chance at life, liberty and the true pursuit of happiness, along with less use of the word “hate.”



A disturbing comparison

I am very disturbed that Forum contributor Nan Bourne likens the insurrection at the Capitol, which was an act of terrorism and treason, to the “Ghost Dance” of Native American tribes of the 1890s (“Trump’s capitol rioters spark vision of the ‘Ghost Dance,’ ” Jan. 8). The latter was a spiritual movement. The former was an insurrection committed by unruly armed mobs, some wearing ridiculous costumes, whose only allegiance is to white supremacy and to Donald Trump.

In 1890, Paiute elder Wovoka responded to a vision by creating a circle dance to call in the strength of the ancestors to help them push back the whites who were encroaching on their sovereign territory. In a campaign of genocide, the U.S. government was breaking treaties signed with many of the Indigenous nations. The massacre at Wounded Knee and the removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities to send them to boarding school — where the goal was to “kill the Indian, save the child” — are just two of the many atrocities committed. The ceremony spread quickly among different tribes; among the Lakota it was known as Spirit Dance. The term “Ghost Dance” was the term the U.S. military used to describe the ritual.

To liken these two phenomena is as offensive as comparing Christian Holy Communion to a game of beer pong.

We have much to learn from the native people who for thousands of years stewarded the land we now occupy. I hope we can do that.



What came to mind first: Crabs

Reading about the siege of Washington, when I came to the description of people scaling walls and others climbing on each other, my first thought was of crabs in a bucket.



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