One bright ray shines through a dark moment, ‘thugs’ did not win.

A protest sign is attached to a utility box near the Capitol Building in Washington, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, in response to supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A protest sign is attached to a utility box near the Capitol Building in Washington, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, in response to supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Credit: Patrick Semansky

Credit: Patrick Semansky

It was, in the words of President-elect Joe Biden, “a dark moment” in the nation’s history. “An assault on the citadel of liberty.”

A day that transfixed a country with a dismay and disbelief not felt since the horrors of 9/11.

D.L. Stewart
D.L. Stewart

While thousands of Americans exercised their right to march peacefully through the streets of Washington, displaying their signs, their flags and their disagreement with the election of a president for whom they chose not to vote, a small percentage chose to be criminals.

Vandals.

Thugs.

Words seldom heard this country were aired. Sedition. Insurrection. Coup.

- - D.L. Stewart

The noisy minority flouted authority. Ignored barriers. Overwhelmed guards. Invaded the building where elected officials were were doing their duty to certify an election, forcing them to seek safety.

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On our television screens we saw images we told ourselves could happen only in other countries. Countries in the middle east. Countries in South America. Countries in Europe. “We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now,” declared a Republican congressman from Wisconsin.

Words seldom heard this country were aired. Sedition. Insurrection. Coup.

Windows in “the people’s house” were shattered. Doors were broken. Offices were trashed. They overturned desks and smashed portraits. Intruders strolled casually through a hall filled with statues honoring historic figures.

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To document their triumph, they snapped selfies of themselves.

The scenes we saw will not be easily forgotten. A decade from now we will recall where we were when it happened, just as we can summon the memory of the day a president was assassinated, a space shot exploded or Twin Towers fell.

And, yet, one thing about this dark day deserves to be remembered:

Our nation’s reputation may have been besmirched and our self-image may have suffered bruises that will not quickly heal – but, when order was restored, the elected officials emerged and went about their duties. In the words of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to show the world “what America is made of.”

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After a long, harrowing day they did what they were supposed to do, what elected officials before them had done every four years. They certified that a new president had been chosen by a vote of the citizens.

That the will of the people would be acknowledged and honored. That, unlike banana republics, America’s leaders would again be decided by the will of the people, not the actions of a mob.

Before returning to announcing the electoral college vote total that would peaceful transfer power from one administration to the next, outgoing vice president Mike Pence made what may stand as the most memorable pronouncement of his years in office.

“You did not win,” he told the criminals, vandals and thugs.

A bright note in the aftermath of a very dark day.

D.L. Stewart’s column typically appeared in the Life section of this newspaper. Contact him at dlstew_2000@yahoo.com.

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