At roughly 1:05 p.m. on January 6, 2021, I watched Speaker Pelosi and Vice-President Pence gavel in a joint session of Congress. As the members of both chambers went their respective ways to engage in a two-hour long debate about election fraud and whether or not to certify Arizona’s electoral votes, I had to stop watching what is usually and should have been a relative formality to attend my Chinese class at 1:15.
I did not know nor could I have even begun to imagine the image I saw when I came back to the TV at 2:00 expecting to see some Republican senator rambling on about fantasized election fraud.
Rather than seeing this already distasteful image, I saw a headline that read, “HOUSE AND SENATE ON LOCKDOWN AS PROTESTORS BREACH CAPITOL” accompanied by images of thousands of protestors—no, insurrectionists—atop the steps of the most sacred building democracy, especially ours, has ever known, waving flags in support of a man who is the antithesis of what the building represents, and waving flags of the Confederacy, a dead cause of racism and anti-Americanism, and of Swastikas and other hateful anti-Semitic phrases. I could not comprehend seeing these things with the Capitol building serving as their backdrop.
From some coddled space of undeserved security, our president failed to demand peace.
Meanwhile, from some coddled space of undeserved security, our president failed to demand peace. He never called the National Guard. He gave the police no choice but to allow the terrorists in. He denied Americans the right to have a timely certification of the election––the most primitive right of a democracy. He encouraged them. When he finally asked them to leave about an eternity too late, he told them that he loved them and understood them. He told this to terrorists. The Vice President had to overstep his legal authority to call the National Guard because our president refused to. Our president failed to carry out his duties and did so on purpose. It is unforgivable.
All the while, I, like millions of Americans, had to suffer the horrifying images –– of the Capitol Police being mauled, of the Capitol doors being blown in, of hundred-year old windows being shattered, of American flags being replaced with Trump’s.
It was all reflective of how this administration changed the United States of America. The Republican Party moved from a group of people with shared ideological values to one that finds community solely in idolizing their leader. They abandoned democracy and even their own values to make a deity out of a man. And when that happens and succeeds our country and its legal systems can no longer be called a democracy.
On January 6th, we came dangerously close to crossing that line. If not for the Congressional leadership which came back to the Capitol in an act of resilience to finish the democratic process of certification, the implications of this act of terrorism could have been far worse. There has not been such a dangerous day for the union since the Civil War. And like the aftermath of that war, on a smaller scale, our country will have to go through a process of healing that will require not only bipartisanship but the reestablishment of what our most basic principles are as a nation. In that process, the president must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in order to ensure that something like this never happens again because unity cannot be achieved without accountability for those who first divided us.
Democracy must be preserved with hard work and a sound sense of communal values.
It was one of the saddest days of my life as it was for so many Americans; yet a day like this may have been needed. It opened the eyes of all Americans that this president and others like him cannot be enabled, for it will result in violence. It exposed the vulnerability of American government and politics. It showed that the best country in the world is not exempt from or immune to anarchism and disorder –– that democracy must be preserved with hard work and a sound sense of communal values.
So while this was a day that will live forever in the pages of history textbooks and in the minds of its witnesses, it will serve as a constant reminder of why we needed to cherish our way of life and protect it so cautiously. I will certainly never forget this day and its images, not only because of the sadness and anger it brought me but also because it will not let me forget what our country looks like when it is divided, and it will not let me lose gratitude for the strength and perseverance of the oldest democracy in the world.