A day later, the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021, remain shocking. We can take solace in knowing that our democracy remains intact, but there’s the uneasiness that remains following a most disturbing nightmare, and the wide-awake recognition of the vulnerability of our great American experiment.
The photo of the Confederate flag being carried through the halls of the U.S. Capitol will linger as part of that nightmare vision. It is the symbol of the enemy, of insurrection. It is a symbol of racism. On Wednesday it returned, yet again, as a symbol of terror.
The mob that breached the Capitol while Congress was serving the American public, the violence that ensued and the lives lost are the responsibility of President Donald Trump, whose legacy will forever be tarnished. He and his followers brought shame on the entire country.
Now, in the slipstream of that shame, many of his supporters are abandoning him; members of his staff are quitting, cabinet members are resigning. Even loyal ally Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina decided enough is enough. Moves are afoot to impeach the president, or to remove Trump from the presidency under the 25th Amendment, which allows for the transfer of power to the vice president. This is even though Trump has but two weeks left in his presidency, a sure sign that enough is indeed enough. The president has shown clearly that he is unfit for office.
Many questions remain. They include why in a post 9/11 America the Capitol was so easily breached. They include why Republican lawmakers continued to challenge the election even after the mob violence had revealed the barbaric nature of that challenge.
And, of course, there’s the accountability, for Trump and his followers, who could have held a peaceful protest but chose instead to turn it into carnage. In response, justice must be served.
It has all added up to a most disturbing picture. Yet in the despair brought on by such visions there is considerable reason for hope.
There was, most prominently, the return of lawmakers to the joint session after the riot had abated, and their determination to carry on the business of certifying Joe Biden’s victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers had a duty to finish the count following the “failed insurrection.”
There was also, it should be noted, the results of another election. On what on any other day would have been the top headline, 33-year-old Jon Ossoff upended Republican Sen. David Perdue in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the Senate. It means that Biden should have the opportunity to pursue his agenda without the obstruction for obstruction’s sake that likely would have characterized Republicans’ continued control of the chamber.
Biden has been building a cabinet of diversity — one that includes Meriden’s own Miguel Cardona as education secretary — that more clearly mirrors the diversity of the nation. The country should be well served by this approach. Americans will have the opportunity to evaluate the performance over the next four years and make their judgment the way it’s supposed to be made, at the ballot box as opposed to defiling the halls of Congress.
The nation needs to reckon with what happened on Wednesday, even as it is about to move forward with the inauguration of President-elect Biden. We should not lose sight of the optimism that comes with such transitions, and particularly this one. We’ll need it for the challenges that are sure to cloud our dreams for a better future.