I am so glad that Vashon islanders are responding to the storming of our nation’s Capitol Building by an angry mob of Trump supporters on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Islanders are calling out the heinous act with signs, public commentary, and even a planned pandemic-safe parade on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. As a former U.S. Senate Page who worked in the historic and beautiful Senate Chamber alongside senators in the Capitol Building years ago, I had a visceral intellectual and emotional reaction to the violent and riotous storming of the Capitol Building.
Like all Americans who see the Capitol for more than just a building, for what it represents as a symbol of our great democratic history and freedom, I was horrified, shocked, and outraged by what happened and by how it was handled. The Capitol Building is both the literal and symbolic “house” of our government; that’s why it was one of the targets on 9/11.
Furthermore, though I have never seen that “house” more divided, where the two-party system that dominates our government is broken, where Democrats and Republicans no longer compromise or cross the aisles for the greater good of the very people they serve, I still can’t comprehend how that violent and aggressive takeover was allowed to happen. My stomach turned as I watched the videos and images on the news: at the disrespect, the mob showed to the law, to the building, and to the constitutional process that was going on within that building at the time, as well as to the danger they brought to the people who work in the Capitol and our legislators trying to finish the process of our election, following the guidelines our country has followed since its inception for the transition of one president to the next.
I will never forget the horrific spectacle of that mob, some in face paint or animal costumes, many holding or wearing signs and T-shirts with offensive, racist, disgusting, hate speech on them. Of course, as Americans, we have the right to free speech and peaceful protest, but we do not have the right to use hate speech, or worse, to use violence and to break laws in those protests: breaking down barricades and smashing windows and doors, brandishing weapons, violently forcing their way into the Capitol Building, and even murder. That is domestic terrorism, a coup, a siege, and totally illegal.
Finally, I cannot forgive the double-standard of how this siege was handled: a mob of privileged, violent, (mostly) white men getting as far as they did and doing as much damage as they did with so little done to stop them by many of the people there to prevent that breach. The now infamous image of an officer posing for a “selfie” with one of the protesters is burned forever in my mind.
Of course, most of the Capitol Police officers did their jobs honorably and fought hard against the mob to stop the siege. Some put themselves in danger as heroes protecting the Capitol, and one officer lost his life in that fight, and that is an unforgivable loss that must have legal consequences. However, we cannot ignore the lack of preparedness for such an attack and the fact that the Capitol Police refused back-up help offered days before, and even the day of, the storming of the Capitol, when many predicted violence that day.
Furthermore, as Americans, we must own the outrageous double-standard we witnessed, in Black and White, of how this mob of mostly white men was treated less aggressively than any Black Lives Matter protest we have seen in the last year. As one of my friends noted on Facebook, “The Nordstrom Building in downtown Seattle during a BLM protest was more aggressively protected than our Capitol Building in D.C. was Wednesday!”
The late John Lewis, a civil rights icon and respected member of Congress who served in the Capitol Building himself for years said, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
We obviously have a long way to go for that peace, and we must never forget what happened on Jan. 6, and we must make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
Thank you, Vashon, for being that “Beloved Community” that always speaks out against injustices. I am proud to be a resident of this beautiful island.
Marcie Sims is an author of both fiction and non-fiction and a tenured professor at Green River College.