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What if this is exactly who we are?

January 15th, 2021 by dk

“This is not who we are.” We’ve all heard that plenty of times in the past week. What if it’s not true? But if this is exactly who we are — then what?

We watched with horror when the Capitol was attacked last Wednesday. Nothing like this has happened to that building since the British tried (and failed) to burn the building down during the War of 1812.

Do you know what was happening at First Street SE during the Civil War? The iconic building was undergoing a major expansion throughout the war. Separate House and Senate Chambers were built. The dome that cuts its iconic profile was installed. Parts of the building were converted into a makeshift hospital for wounded troops, but construction never stopped.

Americans have never attacked “the People’s House” — quite the opposite. Thomas Crawford’s colossal Statue of Freedom was placed atop the finished dome on December 2, 1863, proclaiming to the world that America would soon again have its United States.

What the world saw last week was less hopeful, but not less dramatic. Cosplay fabulists ransacked the complex. A police officer was beaten with an American flag pole, as a sympathetic crowd chanted “USA! USA!” Pity the satirists who will try to exaggerate the scene for cartoonish effect.

We’re all having to learn a new cognitive-emotive trick. It’s difficult to stay shocked when you’re not really surprised. We’ve been told for months this was coming, but we refused to believe it could. And then it did — still shocking, but not surprising.

Egged on at a rally hosted by the President of these United States, thousands of protesters became insurrectionists in real time, on camera for all to see. They stormed the gates of the Capitol, determined to “stop the steal,” even if it meant assassinating public officials or taking hostages.

The putsch failed on January 6, 2021, but hostages were taken. We’re among them. Their demands are clear. They insist that their feverish paranoia must be excused and affirmed, in the name of unity. Republican leaders decry impeachment as “divisive.” That’s only true if they vote against it.

How can there not be swift and severe consequences for these treasonous acts? You cannot look away from what surrounds you.

Our most generous response may prove the most dangerous. Some argue only a sliver of Trump’s supporters favor a violent overthrow. Polling disagrees. One-third of Americans believe there should be no consequences. We’re being told to pity this fringe, because they truly believe the election was stolen. They have fallen for the propagandists’ “Big Lie.”

But what if the “Big Lie” is really the one that most of us believe — that we’re better than this? This mistaken belief invites passivity. It’s too easy to sit back and believe that things will not get worse. That we’ll somehow come together before it’s too late. That the States of America will become United again.

Where is the evidence of that? Our groupthink may have lulled us into a posture and mindset that won’t prepare us for what comes next.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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