Katy Burns: Two Wednesdays

Monitor columnist
Published: 1/24/2021 6:20:06 AM

Last Wednesday our national capital looked like a demonstration project for the National Rent-a-Fence company. Washington, D.C., bristled with fences, razor wire and armed troops who couldn’t look inconspicuous if they tried.

And they didn’t try. That would have defeated their main objective: to deter any evildoers bent on making trouble during the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

The throngs who would normally have been there were absent, and they were replaced with ranks of flags which, as the cameras played over them, were almost like flowers, nodding in the breeze and oddly beautiful.

In fact, the people-less inauguration was strangely – but not unpleasantly – interesting. And soothing, somehow, after the unceasing cacophony of four years of Donald Trump and company, including both his omnipresent family and his obsequious lackeys who did their best over a seemingly endless four years to cripple our functioning government.

During that four years – and for more than 200 years before Trump – our country’s Capitol was the seat of the U.S. Congress and a symbol that for many of us symbolized our functioning government.

Constructed in 1800 in our country’s infancy, and enlarged over the years, the building has been the center – and symbol – of the strength of our national government ever since, despite an attempt by the British to burn it down during the War of 1812.

Its wedding cake dome, begun in 1855 and modified over the years, has made it recognizable through the country and even the world ever since, an international symbol of democracy.

It’s a unique – and lovely – building, maintained beautifully over the years by proud employees as well as by the representatives who cherish the venerable landmark and its place among the capital’s landmark buildings.

And inevitably it is an irresistible target for protestors – or, as the latest gathering became, mobs. And vandals.

The crowd of thousands who were gathered Jan. 6 was called there by Trump, the soon-to-be-ex-president, as part of his fantastical (and doomed) crusade to deny his defeat in November and to persuade the Congress not to certify its results. And with his usual mix of bombast and outright falsehoods, he soon had his acolytes whipped into a frenzy.

He had been cheated, he bellowed. The election was stolen! By the dastardly Democrats and by his innumerable enemies, often unspecified but nonetheless malicious and possessed of vast powers.

March on the Congress! he exhorted them, falsely adding that he would walk with them. To the Capitol!

So march they dutifully did, while he skedaddled back to the comfort and security of the White House to watch what he had wrought on his omnipresent television set.

And we all know what happened. Soon after its arrival the collection of thugs – and that’s what they were and are – decided to visit the Capitol building itself. Then they decided to invade the congressional chambers.

Of course the Capitol is normally invaded by few people more threatening than fifth-graders on field trips or tourists from the heartlands looking to see Real Government in Action, and it’s ill prepared for mass thuggery. While the overwhelmed Capitol Police in position held the mob at bay, congressional members quickly fled their chambers and took shelter elsewhere in the building – hiding, with good reason, in fear for their lives.

While they huddled in terror, the marauders brutally attacked police officers and gleefully ransacked the sacred seat of government, rifling through desks and stealing – carrying off as trophies and souvenirs – Capitol furnishings and what belongings of congressional members struck their fancies.

And it ended – as so many stupid things do – in deaths, in this case of six, including two police officers.

It was a sickening display of lawlessness that shamed America around the world.

But this past week we – and the world – were blessed with an antidote to the poison the Trumpian crowd and its disgraced leader had spread.

The same west front of the Capitol that was shamed by thugs who’d massed there to challenge American democracy just days earlier was instead this past week a showpiece of that same democracy as Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Kamala Devi Harris were peacefully sworn in as the president and vice president, respectively, of the United States.

The inauguration of a new era – a new beginning, really – went off without a hitch while the erstwhile leader of the free world pouted in far off Florida.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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