Last June, after Donald Trump barbarically and violently removed Black Lives Matter protesters who were peaceful, unlike today’s insurrectionists who breached the seat of democracy, I wrote that no symbolic building had been damaged more by Trump than the White House. But I was wrong. While Trump stomped, sprayed, and smoked Black people and their allies, and pushed them away from the White House in June, today he coerced, cajoled, and commanded his clan toward demolishing the U.S. Capitol.
Perhaps writing will help after the events of the day, but it’s going to be hard because my eyes are so full of tears, my heart is broken, and my anger is intense. Still, I’m not surprised that Trump would go out this way. There’s no element of shock, just a fury of hate for anyone who had anything to do with the attempted desecration of democracy and the defacing of the majestic U.S. Capitol.
Less shocking is that Trump’s double standard was on full display. He bombastically brags about his calls for law and order, but that seems to be reserved for those who are Black and brown. It was eerie that an all-white mob tried to disfigure the capitol, long one of the country's symbols of freedom and fairness and the idea that all people are created equal, even if that notion couldn't be starker under Trump's reign.
For six years, I walked through that building every single day, and each day I felt honored, awed, and privileged. I was working on Capitol Hill. I have loved politics and government since I was a kid, through young adulthood, and up through my adulthood. I lived a dream basking in the beacon of egalitarianism. From my bedroom window, I could see the beacon of the capitol's dome off in the distance.
Today, I see the building’s hallowed halls destroyed, windows shattered, statues defaced, the sanctified chambers violated by thugs who were encouraged by history’s most ominous, ruthless, demonic thug, Donald Trump. While he trampled on BLM champions in front of the White House and beyond, today he sent his racist gangsters to trash the U.S. Capitol and overthrow the U.S. government.
The elegance and reverence of the House and Senate chambers are like religious sanctuaries. In the House chamber, the president always speaks from the second tier; above him sit the vice president and speaker of the house. It is symbolic of the idea that the people are the ones with the real power above the president. Some of those people who support Trump, who have been continually manipulated and lied to, undemocratically and seditiously sat in those chairs. They did not represent the will of the "people" of the United States.
On the other side of the capitol is the Senate chamber. When you are elected to the Senate, you are assigned a desk. There are 100 of them, and they are like antique elementary school desks, where the desktops flip open. When you open those desktops, underneath you will find the carved initials of all the preceding senators who have used that desk. One of the first tasks for a new senator is to whittle their initials inside their desktop.
In the hallways that surround the Senate chamber are busts of all the vice presidents of the United States, because the second most important task of the vice president is their role as president of the Senate. Today, the vice president was evacuated, in the middle of his constitutional duty of presiding over the Senate for its constitutional duty of approving the Electoral College votes. In his chair sat hoodlums who were sent by his dictatorial boss.
The barbaric Trump base soiled the regal and breathtaking capitol rotunda, choking out its beauty. The rotunda is where presidents and American heroes lie in state, presidents on top of the caisson that was used for Abraham Lincoln’s casket, which is stored deferentially beneath the floor of the rotunda. Today's goons sought to crush over Lincoln’s call for emancipation, and a stronger and more equal union.
In the basement of the capitol, right below Lincoln’s caisson, is where George Washington’s tomb was constructed and originally supposed to be, but it was not used, as he was interred at Mount Vernon instead. Washington today would be turning over in that tomb had he lain in eternity underneath the madness and Trump’s tribe that dangerously came close to tearing apart Washington’s dream of “we the people.”
People, Trump’s heavies are not. They are racists, pilferers, and anarchists, and they were callously carousing outside the House chamber in the fabled Statuary Hall, where statues of two illustrious people from each state are positioned. It’s where you can hear a whisper from one side of the room to the other. When it was the original House chamber, John Adams famously positioned himself in that room to stealthily hear the conversations that emanated from the opposing party on the other side. The lawmakers were oblivious to the fact that their faint voices were heard clearly from so far away. But today it was flashbangs and gunshots that drowned out those whispers.
The steps of the capitol were infected and intruded upon by wicked Trump tribes, waving flags of futility where constituents from around the country, including school groups, religious groups, LGBTQ+ groups, senior groups, and families gather and pose for pictures with the resplendent, glowing white edifice of the capitol as a backdrop. Members of Congress often join them on the steps and explain the history of the esteemed building behind them. What will they say in the future about today?
What can we say about today? As I’m writing this, sadness has washed over me, displacing my anger. This is all like a slap in the face to my undying faith in the United States of America, and an emotional cut to the lasting memories I have of the U.S. Capitol.
Whatever Trump and his racist and rabid crew tried to do today failed. It’s ironic that during the last four years, peaceful protesters, and particularly Black ones, were referred to as “thugs.” But who are the real thugs? Peaceful protesters don’t destroy democracy and don’t burn down America’s house. That’s what thugs do, and while Trump called for arrests and imprisonment of BLM protesters, what will he do about the real criminals who attempted an insurrection today?
There is nothing that words can adequately express about what has transpired today, but I do know this — the U.S. Capitol will continue to stand tall, radiate its gleaming white, open its venerated doors to all, Black, white, brown, Asian, LGBTQ+, and anyone who believes in our freedom. The capitol will once again see the bright sunshine through its windows, beneath the rotunda, as the sun rises and sets. It's a magnificent sight.
And so is the brilliance of the United States democracy that will also rise and stand tall, after all is said and was tragically done today and during the last four years. Our country and its people — the ones who believe in freedom and equality — have taken a beating over the last four years; however, thugs will always fail, and peaceful protesters will always prevail. We will all endure, and we will all shine again soon.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.