January 6, 2021 — What Did It Mean for Our Democracy?

A one year anniversary reflection

Stop the Steal Rally attendees, the morning of January 6, 2021. The Stop the Steal Rally later turned into the violent insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol. Photo is author’s own.

It’s the one year anniversary of a violent attempted overthrow of the government. I knew it was coming. We all know what day it happened. But, the enormity of this anniversary just kind of hit in one huge blow. And, if I’m being honest, it kind of brings me to my knees a little bit.

The feelings have come rushing back like a swell in an over full river. The abject terror. The despair. The anger. And, to some extent disbelief. But, when you think about it, you realize that those who incited this violence, had been building to this all along. Even before announcing his presidential run, former President Trump was a loud, public birther conspiracist (the belief that former President Obama was born in Kenya and his Hawaiian birth certificate was fake). His candidacy had violent undertones. His entire presidency was predicated on hints, subtle and not-so-subtle, to violence. He clearly gets off on violence and hurting others and what happened that day was exactly what he, and his cronies, wanted to happen. They wanted their supporters to try and stop the election confirmation. They wanted others to feel terror. They enjoyed watching it.

Something was lost that day, for all Americans, and all those watching around the world. A small part of our collective naïveté shriveled and died. We all thought that, despite the violence that rends the fabric of our country on a more regular basis, the peaceful transfer of government was a line that wouldn’t be crossed.

We know now that even those most in danger that day, like former Vice President Mike Pence, if emboldened enough, will turn a blind eye to the truth of that day. Those who fomented the angry mob continue unabated and blithely move forward with their lives. We watched what happened with our own eyes: the chases, the beatings, the crazed anger in the eyes of those involved, and the fear in the eyes of those in danger. We listened to the men hunting people in the halls of Congress, calling out in singsong-y voices that raise the hairs on the back of your neck and turn your thoughts to Jack Nicholson in The Shining. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” except now it’s “All anger and no brain makes Biggo a felon.” We heard the heartbreaking testimonies of the brave men and women who battled the insurrectionists, who staff the Capitol and those who represent us, and the journalists trapped in the building on that fateful day, with our own ears. Republican Party leadership wants us all to believe that what we’ve seen and heard are lies. They tell us, “What happened that day didn’t happen.”

We did lose something that day, but our country lost its footing a long time ago. Driven by fear that they might not forever retain control of the country, the politicians we’ve elected to lead our nation use their words and deeds to further division. We’ve devolved into a street fight where there are no winners. We’ve chosen aggressive, to the point of angry, individualism and eschewed anything that might be done to serve the “common good.” So many people talk without saying anything, and complain, but do nothing to effect any meaningful change.

A year later, and the chasm seems only wider. Republican Party leadership not only furthers the lies about January 6, 2021, but condones violent rhetoric amongst their party representatives. No one seems willing to hold those who helped create the insurrection to account. The former White House chief of staff has written a book that details their plan to overthrow the government. He has not, however, testified in front of Congress. The former President himself has not been compelled to answer to Congress for his part in the events of January 6. The senators and representatives who spoke at the day’s rally have not been removed from Congress, or punished in any way.

That day will go down in infamy as one of the worst days in our country’s history. I don’t have the answer for how to fix the divisions in our country. I am a loud advocate for kindness, for giving the benefit of the doubt, and trying to see the best in people. But, on this point, I cannot concede. What happened on January 6, 2021 was a defining moment for our democracy. It is vital that the majority of our citizenry come together, whether Republicans, Democrats, or no political affiliation at all, to condemn the actions of that day, and to publicly proclaim that we will not rest until our leaders hold all of those involved, including those within their own governing body and their own political party, to account.