Treason. Treason, plain and simple, was committed against American democracy Jan. 6, 2021. Armed, white supremacist terrorists stormed the Capitol building in support of a militaristic, authoritarian bigot: The President of the United States.
The United States came under grave domestic threat yesterday, and perhaps was the most imperiled it has been since the treacherous firing on Fort Sumter in 1861 and the beginnings of Civil War. American democracy was threatened Jan. 6 from both inside and outside the Capitol: just as a mob of armed terrorists converged on it for the purpose of overturning the 2020 Presidential Election, sixty-eight Republican Congressmen contested an election in which their leader lost by over seven million votes on baseless accusations of voter fraud. Upon breaking into the Capitol, in an act of terrifying, reprehensible irony, domestic terrorists held aloft the Confederate battle flag, a grave marker of American sedition.
It was difficult for me to watch the news, to witness news anchors and reporters in shock as they repeated again and again, “we didn’t think this could happen here.” What, I wanted to ask them, did they think the logical conclusion to our authoritarian leader’s rhetoric was? He told the white supremacist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in the middle of a Presidential debate, a hallmark of our democracy. As stated plainly in a Reuters article, he “summoned his supporters to ‘wild’ protest, and told them to fight. They did.” At President-Elect Joe Biden’s desperate urging, he called off his supporters in word, but backed them in deed, assuring them of his “love” and continuing to refuse to accept his electoral defeat.
Yet, after all this, many news outlets, in their attempts to remain politically impartial, continues to refer to the failed coup that occurred yesterday as “protest,” its violent, anti-democratic terrorists as “protestors.” Such vocabulary fails to accurately describe what easily could have been a violent overthrow of American democracy. The events that have occurred will prevent us in the future from considering 2021 to have heralded any sort of a peaceful transition of power.
Benjamin Franklin once referred to the United States as “a republic if you can keep it.” If any lesson is to be taken away from this event, it is how fragile our democracy is. It is sacred, and must be protected, lest we be destroyed by violence, bigotry, untruth. The events of Jan. 6 must be remembered: we can never let this happen again. We need to hold the traitors responsible for this failed coup accountable for their actions: the terrorists who stormed the Capitol, the Congressmen who sought illegal, unsubstantiated sedition based in falsehoods, and the dangerous President who stoked their passions.
I beg of you, contact your representatives. Protest. Vote. Exercise your Constitutional rights as US citizens. Whether you lean left or right, strive to uphold democratic politics that champion our American values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must stay vigilant if our republic is to last.
Grant Wong ’21 is a History major in the St Andrews Joint Degree Programme at the College of William and Mary. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the James Blair Historical Review, a member of the Quizbowl team, and a member of the Ballroom Dance Club. Email Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.