The events of January 6 – when an insurrection erupted and attacked the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the death of a Capitol Police officer and others, terrorized lawmakers and a ransacked building – were so shameful and embarrassing we might be tempted in future years to downplay or minimize it. Who wants to recall a nightmare?
But that would be a huge mistake.
Rather than putting that dreadful day in our rear-view mirror, we should lean into it, make it a national day of remembrance, and show America what real patriotism looks like.
Dec. 7 is when we recall the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor, a date designated as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Somber events are held at the site annually so people can “come together to honor and remember the 2,403 service members and civilians who were killed” there in 1941.
Every September 11, we recall the tragedy of the next-largest attack on our soil. It’s a painful day, yet one we must always observe. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York exists to document the “impact and continuing significance" of that day.
January 6, 2021, was no fluke. It was much darker, the culmination of years of stoking anger, surging hate groups, permissive gun laws and a citizenry – including lawmakers – who, through their silence, were complicit in contributing to that perfect storm. Since then, more terrifying details are emerging about the insurrection. In addition to the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, others were severely injured, including one who lost an eye. Two others died by suicide afterward.
Lawmakers hid in terror as rioters in full military gear roamed the halls, while others ransacked the building. These intruders took photos of confidential documents, and some even left feces and urine in hallways and offices. Their targets weren’t confined to one party, as the bloodthirsty mob searched with equal fervor for both Vice President Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
For ethnic minorities, January 6 was especially ominous. We know far too well that armed mobs calling for violence usually spell trouble for us. We’re well aware that many of the rioters – domestic terrorists – espouse hateful messages, are often affiliated with hate groups, and apparently yearn for a day of white Christian supremacy.
There needs to be a national initiative to put a spotlight on the events of January 6, including prosecution of lawbreakers and holding their enablers accountable; launching an official investigation, and declaring an annual Remembrance Day of observation. We must rededicate ourselves to unity, bipartisanship and honoring the beauty of our diversity.
In the midst of the Civil War, the Great Dome of the U.S. Capitol remained unfinished. President Lincoln, believing the sight was a metaphor for the shakiness of the future of the Union, ordered that the project be completed, saying, “If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend the Union shall go on.”
Our beloved and majestic Capitol – the home of our democracy – was captured, vandalized, defiled and made a crime scene on January 6. We must not sweep that under the rug. We must never forget what happened that day. We must draw upon the lessons we can learn, and we must take action to show the insurrectionists that they are not the real America.
Doing so, as Lincoln put it, would be "a sign that we intend the Union to go on."
This piece originally ran in Deadline Detroit on February 6, 2021.