One year ago, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building attempting to overthrow a democratic election.
It was one of those strange experiences where one watches events in real time that will eventually become chapters of history textbooks.
As with most things in this polarized time, this event can be spun to defend nearly any viewpoint or ideology. For some, the event represents a bubbling over of white rage, a perceived notion of a loss of white power.
For others, the event represents the inevitable result of the deprioritization, and de-investing of public education, for how else would so many people fall prey to conspiracy theories like QAnon?
And yet, incredibly, for others, the Capitol riot represents the danger of the so-called radical left and Antifa. Indeed, 55% of Republicans believe that the riot was actually started by those on the left to hurt Trump.
For me, this year’s anniversary of the attack on the Capitol is just another reminder of the wayward trajectory of this country; this country that has so much potential, so much capability, so much power and wealth, and still so far to go.
There is a quote, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill and other times to Abba Eban, that goes something like “Americans will always do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”
Much as we Americans generally like to think of our nation as that shining city on the hill, we’re more like the recalcitrant and reluctant Ebenezer Scrooge, failing to give a damn about anything besides wealth and only changing when confronted with the vision of one’s own demise. Scrooge, after all, wasn’t ready to change after seeing Tiny Tim’s death, but only after seeing his own.
Perhaps that is what the Capitol riot was: Our collective vision of our eventual demise at the hand of our collective disregard for the things that truly matter—education, health, environment—and the obsessions with the things that do not—materialism, absurd wealth, social media presence.
The thing is, though, that Scrooge woke up a changed man.
One year on, it is unclear that we have woken up a changed nation.