By Kevin Shannahan/Opinion
“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” I have always found that quote from Adam Smith to a friend who was distraught over the American victory at Saratoga during the American Revolution to be comforting. As I grow older, I have seen the ups and downs of our, and our nation’s lives. Age provides perspective. As a child, I saw helicopters evacuating the US embassy in Saigon. As a high school senior, I saw the abject failure of the Iranian rescue mission. As a young Air Force officer, I witnessed the incredible victory of Desert Storm and the fall of the Soviet Union. As a middle-aged veteran, I see the emergence of China and the return of Russia added to a seemingly endless series of wars in the Middle East. From the dark days of the Civil War to WWII, the Great Depression and any number of trials and tribulations, the nation has endured and grown.
I will have to admit to being more concerned recently than in any other time in my life. While Adam Smith’s quote is indeed true, there is a limit to the damage, especially self-inflicted, a society, even ours, can sustain. We cannot go on like this. Our posterity will hold us accursed.
When I went to work today, it was a normal day. The Congress was to meet at the Capitol to certify the Electoral College results. I expected a few senators and congressmen to object. There would be some considerable posturing that would delay the vote, but no more than that. Former Senator Joseph Biden would formally become the President-Elect to be sworn in a few weeks hence along with Senator Kamala Harris as Vice-President.
As the world now knows, that is not quite what happened. It does not take much to transform a crowd into a mob and that is exactly what happened as the crowd went from the White House to the Capitol building. For the first time since the War of 1812 when the British Army burned the Capitol, the seat of American democracy was overrun. There can be no other way to describe what happened. The Vice-President of the United States was evacuated by the secret service from a rampaging mob as he was presiding over what should have been, and has been up to this disgraceful day, an orderly transition of power. This did not happen in 1860 or 1864 when the nation was first about to embark on the Civil War or later when it was still raging. One hundred and fifty years later, rioters carrying Confederate battle flags rampage through the United States Capitol. Our nation’s enemies laugh.
The mob desecrated the Capitol of the United States of America. The rostrum where Winston Churchill spoke to a Joint Session of Congress during WWII, where President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war after Pearl Harbor, where almost every president of the United States has spoken was sullied by a number of rioters mugging for selfies. In a scene at once silly and indicative of the barbarism shown that day, one of the rioters was half naked, dressed in furs and a horned helmet with his face painted blue.
This is the United States of America, not some Banana Republic where coups are the order of the day. Make no mistake. That is exactly what that mob was attempting. Spare me the excuses I am sure will populate the comments section. The president has yet to achieve a single legal victory, to include a 9-0 rejection by the Supreme Court. Contrary to that despicable tweet, one of many from the White House, Vice-President Pence was doing his duty under the Constitution that day. I have already read comments about a “mostly peaceful crowd”. Perhaps those commentators missed the sight of hundreds of people rushing the thin blue line protecting the Capitol and storming in while others climbed the walls and broke windows and doors. The symbolism of the scaffold erected outside cannot have a peaceful explanation. Rioters, they stopped being protesters when they took the first step past the police line, vandalized offices and brought weapons and at least one explosive device into the Capitol.
This is the United States of America. We are still the shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope to the world. We had better start acting like it.
By Kevin Shannahan/Opinion