December 7th, 1941. November 22, 1963. September 11, 2001.
January 6, 2021.
These days raise questions: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor? What were you doing when you heard Kennedy had been shot? Who told you about the attack on the World Trade Center?
How did you find out there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?
In my case, although I was too young for the first two of those dates, I have strong memories (albeit, in the case of the last, recent memories) of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Capitol. In the case of 9/11, my mother-in-law called me, frantic and in tears, saying “Turn on the tv, a plane has flown into the World Trade Center.” (At that point we thought it was an air disaster, not the worst foreign terrorist attack to ever take place on American soil.)
Likewise, on January 6th, the Resident Shrink texted our family chat group with “turn on the news. Senate being evacuated with Trump rioters having got into the building.”
I felt like I did on 9/11 — this can’t be happening here. Not in America. We’re safe here. Except we aren’t, not anymore. Another layer of naive innocence has been stripped from my view of the world. I can see now that America is not exceptional.
In many ways, January 6th is worse than 9/11. The Capitol was overrun by homegrown terrorists, threatening that which is most central to our life as a country. From the beginning of our Republic, our democracy is central to who we are. That democracy has been endangered once before, and it took a war to get it back. (Even today we are not fully recovered from that war and the atrocities which made it necessary. The defenders of the losing side left a long line of ancestors who fight on and who were part of the seditioust mob trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.)
In the wake of the attack on our values, I find myself awash in grief and fear. What is going to happen next? Is this just the first salvo in a low-grade Civil War? How many people are going to die?
I do not ask why the insurrection of January 6th happened. I know why, or at least I think I know why. I know that deluded, angry people, egged on by a monomaniacal narcissist, acted on their worst instincts and desires.
We can only hope that they let their violent tendencies go. That they decide to live peacefully alongside their neighbors. I do not think that is going to happen. I think that the country is in real trouble.
God help America.