History Repeats Itself

People our age have witnessed a lot of history. The octogenarians among us remember the pandemic of 1918. Depending on the decade in which you were born, you may have lived through the Great Depression, an alphabet soup of wars, horrific diseases and vaccines that wiped them out, assassinations, mass shootings, Black Lives Matter, the women’s march, and so much more. But this week, something played out on our TV sets that was reminiscent of a one of our worst memories.

On January 6, 2021, as Congress met to certify the election results, the president was holding a simultaneous rally. Those who attended the rally turned into an out-of-control mob that stormed the Capitol. They destroyed everything in their wake—congressional offices, American flags, historic furniture, statues, and wall hangings. They climbed through broken windows and the rotunda, Statuary Hall, and offices. They knocked down doors, emptied file drawers, sat at representatives’ desks, and stole computers.

In return, they left souvenirs of their rampage—a note for the speaker of the house, gloves, cigarette butts, garbage, debris, and the powdery residue left behind by fire extinguishers. They overwhelmed the Capitol police, ignored the curfew, and spread through the courtyard and building like molten lava.

As all of this was unfolding, we watched in horror. And we were not alone. The whole country … the whole world … watched with us. For those of us who recall similar scenes unfolding in the forties, this was like sitting in a movie theater watching News of the World in black and white. Far too familiar, far too frightening.

There is no conclusion to this post, no profound lesson to be learned or, at least, no lesson I am capable of imparting. The story isn’t over we are told by news analysts. Ending the riot was only pushing the pause button; there is more to come. But, for now, we are merely spectators as it continues to unfold. That is not a happy prospect.