January 18, 2022

PETERSON: One year later, have we learned lessons from Capitol siege?

Wednesday was our first day of practice for middle school basketball in Creston, including the eighth-grade team that I coach.

I always enjoy meeting a new group each winter and working together for several weeks to enjoy a common experience and hopefully help to improve their skills and understanding of the sport. It’s a great way to get through an Iowa winter.

Last year, however, the first day of practice happened to be on Jan. 6. It was obviously more eventful than most first days of a season. I recall arriving at the school at about 3 p.m. and discussing with PE teacher Mike McCabe what we had heard and watched on TV regarding the march to the U.S. Capitol that turned violent that afternoon.

Those two hours in the gym were a nice escape from the troubling developments taking place in our house of democracy. I recall another teacher, a U.S. Army veteran, being emotional about what he’d seen, knowing that he had served proudly to protect the very democracy that seemed to be under attack that day.

On the one-year anniversary of that event today, we’re hearing a lot about the cases of those who are charged and other matters under investigation by the special House committee.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said: “As of today, we have arrested and charged more than 725 defendants in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia for their roles in the Jan. 6th attack.”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has stated that he had no fears there will be any sort of repeat attempt to storm the capitol again, citing improvements in the security force.

The incident left four rioters dead and more than 150 law enforcement officers hurt. One officer died of a stroke shortly after the riot.

It was truly one of the most shameful episodes in American history.

Yet, to this day many Americans still don’t trust the validity of the 2020 general election, even though there was never any evidence found of widespread or organized fraud. In several cases, Republicans on the ticket won their election where President Trump did not, so if there was fraud it wasn’t carried out very successfully by GOP opposition.

I don’t pretend to know many details of either the election certification process or the march on the capitol as Congress was certifying the election.

But, my gut reaction is that this theory of election fraud was simply a means to avoid the embarrassment of losing on the big stage. The foundation of that theory goes back to the months preceding the 2016 election, when comments were made at rallies along the lines of, “the only way we lose this election is if it is rigged and stolen from us.”

Those words were repeated on Jan. 6 last year, and those attending the rally were told to be strong, or their country would be taken away from them.

Well, 12 months later the nation itself remains strong, despite the hardships of battling a worldwide pandemic. It’s made harder by the divisive nature of our country’s response to policies and procedures designed to minimize the effects of the pandemic.

Through wacky conspiracy theories passed around in social media and online digital chat groups, Trump’s digital soldiers hit the streets after the rally in front of the White House. Their intention to disrupt the certification process. But, to this day we’re still not told HOW the election was supposedly stolen.

There were not large numbers of dead people votes, or illegal immigrant votes. In some cases, like Georgia and Arizona, President Biden actually got more votes than originally reported after results from those locations were carefully reviewed.

I know there are many reasonable people voting Republican who understand “the steal” was a false narrative, but it’s not a good environment to break ranks and admit it publicly.

But, what we all need to stand united against is the continued threat of organized militia movements that carry the threat of domestic violence beyond the Jan. 6, 2020 events. It’s done under the theme of personal liberties under attack, and “forced equality” over equal opportunity. They’re unhappy with the level of control they see coming from the federal government.

It’s not outrageous anymore to suggest these groups are serious about a revolution. Oddly enough, it comes from people claiming to be about law and order.

I’m not here to defend other outbreaks of violence, such as destruction of public and private property in the summer months following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Any danger to public welfare and their property is troublesome.

Let’s hope the peaceful transfer of power can take place in future elections. We need to show the world that we’re a proud, civilized nation operating under a functioning democracy, not one engaged in a civil war.

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Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.