US Capitol invasion hits hard

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Capitol dome, Washington D.C., Farm and Dairy file photo
Farm and Dairy file photo.

Like any schoolboy, I was both giddy and awed when I walked into the U.S. Capitol for the first time. Here Abraham Lincoln walked and John Kennedy laid. This is where Henry Clay and Daniel Webster debated, where wars were declared, peace was cherished, and democracy watered.

Only I wasn’t a schoolboy; I was nearly 30 years old and I was playing hooky from covering dull farm bill hearings in the House ag committee. My press pass, I discovered, was a passkey to almost every room on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Capitol was the first star attraction I explored. It was as solid as the government it housed and as breathtaking as the ideals it represented. I was unprepared, however, for its solemnity. I heard whispers, not words; saw directions gestured, not spoken; and encountered guards with folded hands, not crossed arms.

The Capitol seemed more a church than citadel, a place where the voices of American saints, our patriots, prayed for us, the living. My heart heard them. No public building, before or since, ever affected me like it.

When news broke on Jan. 6 that an anger-fueled mob was kicking in its doors and windows and attacking its police, employees and members of Congress, I was sure the building would endure. The Capitol, after all, had seen its share of thugs (Sen. Joseph McCarthy), despots (President Richard M. Nixon …), and crooks (take your pick) come and go.

Nor was I surprised that the mob mobilized after given what sounded to it like orders by the White House. After four years of lies upon lies, there simply wasn’t enough oxygen left on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue for fact or truth to have a fighting chance in any debate, let alone a riot.

What was shocking, however, was the pure hatred the attackers carried from the White House to the Capitol. They believed that harming duly elected officials would somehow keep Donald Trump in office after Jan. 20.

Where did they get such a crazy idea? Had they never been to the U.S. Capitol before that day?

Had they not heard how its statues still call every American to defend both liberty and the rule of law?

Had they never read the words — some given as last words — of Americans who believed so deeply in free elections that they died so even fools and traitors could walk in their shadows as free people?

Did they not see the pall their rioting cast on the honored dead of Concord, Gettysburg, Iwo Jima, Khe Sanh or Fallujah?

If not, that’s truly tragic because their first visit to the U.S. Capitol came as pawns in service of those who used them to make a grab for power American citizens had not given them through either vote or voice.

But many of the mob will pay for that mistake with the loss of the very thing they were told was at stake: their freedom. That, too, was a lie.

The elected officials who planted, then fueled, what they clearly knew were lies about “voting irregularities,” now want to deflect attention from their treason with calls for unity and bipartisanship.

These are lies, too. They don’t want unity; they want cover. They want America to see them as peacemakers when, in fact, they’re powered by only ambition and lies. They’re phonies.

But the Capitol riot was real; so are its shattered windows, splintered wood and bloodstained floors. All will be swept, scrubbed and repaired.

The stain left by the public servants too cowardly to tell the truth to the mob they inflamed, however, can best be purged at the ballot box in the next fair and free election.

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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com

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