Skip To Main Content

Storming of the Capitol

Nicholas Baum '23

Every generation has an event scarred in its memory; a moment so abnormal and frightening that any individual who can recall it remembers exactly how, when, and where the moment occurred. Members of Generation Z can attest to this idea when the US Capitol Building, the center of the federal legislative branch, was bombarded and ruptured by supporters galvanized by the former president.

Perhaps explicitly or implicitly, the unprecedented actions of January 6th, 2021 represented the same secessionist and iconoclastic vision that previous enemies of the country have replicated. The last time the Capitol had been attacked in such a manner was in 1814, when, similarly enough, British soldiers thoroughly looted the state building as an act of retaliation. Fifty years later, the Confederacy attempted to secede from the Union in order to, above all, preserve slavery. Yet, it would only be in 2021 when the Confederate battle flag entered the Capitol building for the first time, accompanied by other racist and antisemitic iconography.

Even among the sea of American and Gadsden flags, there was an implicit underminement of the very fabric of the nation. Take the ideal of democracy, integral to which is the peaceful transition of power, which was precisely what was being interrupted when the certification of the Electoral College results was put into indefinite recess. Or take the ideal of self-governance, the ability for the state to reflect the will of the people, a notion negated by the hundreds of individuals who believed the physical coercion of their minority trumped the legitimacy of the majority in a free and fair election.

Over the span of a single presidential term, millions of Americans were mobilized from making America great again to taking America for themselves; there are several reasons for this perversion of American ideals.

One reason is perhaps that the rioters on Capitol Hill loved the president more than they loved America. They prioritized a cult of personality over an obligation of patriotism. That doesn’t mean that they were trying to destroy something American in the name of their hero, but that in the name of their hero, they were inconsiderate of the repercussions of their actions.

Perhaps they were actually explicit and meaningful in their strike against the nation, regardless of whether their intentions were the affirmation of something American. As noted before, notions such as the peaceful transition of power, self-governance, and the willingness to put country before individual are all integral to a democratic state. When we refuse to adhere to such ideals, the fragility of any self-governing republic reveals itself. After all, a society governed by the people is only as great as the citizens within it. We each have a duty not only to participate in such a system but to be informed and opinionated in a way that makes our participation meaningful.

If anything helpful can be taken from the attacks on the Capitol, it’s that our democracy, ideals, and rights must always be defended. As Ronald Reagan stated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The moment we take for granted the political power and potential for prosperity we inherit in America is the moment we allow normally unthinkable actions to become normal.