Remember sacrifice in defense of American democracy
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died protecting his country last week.
Sicknick was part of a contingent of officers guarding the Capitol building on Jan. 6 when a mob of self proclaimed “patriots” broke through barricades, scaled walls and broke windows and doors to invade the U.S. Capitol building.
Sicknick’s murderers pulled him to the ground and beat him with a fire extinguisher.
No one is the villain in their own story. Those involved in the assault on the Capitol last week may have convinced themselves they had the noblest of motives, but used the most profane tools in their arsenal by attacking the very foundation of American government.
There are many who will argue that those who murdered officer Sicknick, who erected a gallows on the National Mall, who used pieces of lumber and stolen ballistic shields to break in windows and invade the building were simply a misguided few. They would say the majority of those present were simply there peacefully exercising their right to disagree and that even many of those who went through the barricades and stood on the Capitol steps were a combination of gawkers and those caught up in the crowd.
Peaceful protests don’t have body counts. Peaceful protests don’t have molotov cocktails and pipe bombs. Peaceful protests don’t have property damage bills measuring in the tens of thousands of dollars. Peaceful protests don’t have people roaming the halls of the Capitol with zip-tie handcuffs hunting for members of Congress.
When the first pane of glass is broken, when the first person is knocked down and bloodied, when the first rock is thrown, protests cease to be peaceful and whatever grievance, no matter how valid it may have been, becomes a side note to the madness of the riot.
When it comes to last week’s attack on a joint session of Congress presided over by the Vice President of the United States, there is a lot of blame to go around. The murderers and thugs who broke into the building deserve the most focused blame and should face the full legal consequences of their actions in killing officer Sicknick, injuring other officers and civilians and defiling a federal building in an attempted insurrection.
There is likewise blame to be placed on the shocking lack of preparedness of the Capitol Police. This is far from the first angry protest on the National Mall and won’t be the last. As recently as last summer, protests in Washington, D.C. were kept peaceful in part because there was an overwhelming show of force that made any idea of attack on buildings and monuments foolhardy. Congress must investigate the decision-making that left Capitol Police officers woefully undermanned when there was a promise that tensions would be high. Those responsible for the lack of immediate response for support should likewise be held accountable.
Blame also rests on those who fed the mob and spurred the group to action, encouraging them in their mayhem repeating repeatedly disproved allegations in an attempt to score political points. Casting this blame is thornier and entangled in a minefield of politics that takes friend and foe alike. Ultimately, it must be the voters who take action and serve as judge on those who wish to serve themselves over serving America.
Fortunately there are those in Congress who continue to place the country above politics.
“We need to look at ourselves and say, we can do better,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher of Green Bay in an interview with Margaret Hoover of PBS’ Firing Line who compared what was taking place in the Capitol last week to what he witnessed during his combat tours in Iraq.
“I fundamentally believe . . . that the reservoirs of strength in America are still very, very deep. We have gotten through far worse than this in the past,” Gallagher said.
After the smoke cleared, the bodies recovered and the injured taken to hospitals, Congress came back into session last Wednesday night and finished the job at hand with civil discussion over points of disagreement before casting their votes.
Of all the memorials that will be made to the memory of officer Brian Sicknick and hundreds of others who put themselves in harms way to guard the Capitol, the fact that the mob did not win the day is the greatest one.