So, a week in and I swear I’m ready to already write 2021 off.
Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that the US Capitol was overrun this week in a coup attempt.
Many moons ago, I worked on Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives. I was there for a little over a year as an intern, working for a member from a district similar to the one I grew up in. I primarily worked on tobacco and education policy. It was a plumb gig, as the special assistant to the president of my university recommended me for the position. It was only supposed to be for a semester, and it lasted a year.
I also interned on the Hill for a House Committee chair during my second year of college.
I went on to be an association lobbyist for nearly a decade, spending many days on Capitol Hill meeting with staff and Members on topics in my portfolio.
There is a certain mystique to the Capitol complex. There are tons of tunnels connecting all the buildings. Hidden doorways and chambers, a little subway on the Senate side. There almost always a bustle of people coming and going. Security is always tight; you had to go through metal detectors long before 9/11. There were places where you lowered your voice, more out of reverence than anything. It’s a special place; its representative government live and in real time.
There were lots of things I hated about working on the Hill, but I never forgot how fortunate I was to have been able to work there—It’s a place where careers are made. I often thought of the enslaved people who helped to build the complex and what their spirits must think about me being in that space. It gives me chills.
So, to see people literally climbing the walls of the Capitol building was really emotional. I have friends and colleagues who work there. My current beau works there. To see the space desecrated in ways that really were unthinkable was hard personally, but as an American—yo, WTF.
The news didn’t report how some of these folks urinated outside of offices. There are only a few pictures of the largely Black and brown custodial staff who had to clean up the horrendous mess folks left. They didn’t talk a much about how security rushed to save Members of congress, while staffers where left trying to barricade themselves in offices under siege. I saw staffers tweeting at their bosses in hopes of checking to see if everyone was ok.
And then of course there’s how easy it was for the Capitol to be overrun. Last summer, most of downtown was boarded up because of fear of possible damage to property. My office building has pretty much been boarded up since June given all the protests that have taken place. During the summer tanks and other military vehicles were all over downtown DC. It reminded me a lot of what it was like in the city right after 9/11.
But not this week. The National Guard didn’t get called up until well into the afternoon. Images show that insurgents were treated with patience and kindness throughout the afternoon. There’s lot of video and audio of these terrorists threatening and harming police—so I’m guessing all that Blue Lives Matter stuff is out the window. There is literally no explanation other than giving emotional White folks the benefit of the doubt that wasn’t afforded to protestors who just want law enforcement to stop extrajudicial killings of Black and brown folks. If you know DC, you know this is true.
Even the arrests in the aftermath—what around 20 people? And I’m supposed to feel some kind of way about that? Do you know how many hundreds, and nationally thousands, of people who were arrested during BLM protests last summer? In protests about extending oil pipelines through reservations and sovereign Native property a few years ago? The juxtaposition is hard to swallow.
I watched coverage of what was happening with Hope, who concluded that if this came with adulthood, she didn’t want it. I wonder how all of this will shape her ideals about democracy and participating in it.
Lots has already happened since the coup attempt, and I’m hopeful that this country will get it’s ish together, but Wednesday was a hard day to endure since then.
In the meantime I’m still going to be hunkered down right here until at least after the inauguration.