07 January 2021

A Day We'll Not Soon Forget (Plus New Year's Resolutions)


A reminder and a marker laid down for our future

Let me take a breath.

What a day.

Lucky me, getting my turn in the rotation on the day after armed insurrectionists mobbed our national capitol.

And here I was going to talk about New Year's resolutions.

Well, if the past few years have taught me anything, it's that flexibility is a big part of a life well-lived. So let's be flexible.

Like many of our readers, I have been eager to put 2020 behind me and embrace a new year, one with the promise of vaccination against this horrendous, never-ending pandemic, a restoration of some semblance of "normality" to our daily lives.

As part of this enthusiasm for a change, I made the New Years' resolutions I intended to share in today's blog post. Mine are pretty basic:

1. Sleep more (at least eight hours per night).

2. Eat better.

3. Cut out diet soda.

4. Exercise more.

(And a week in, so far, so good.)

That's it. No writing resolutions. As I laid out in my Christmas Eve post two weeks ago, I had a host of 2020 writing resolutions, and I knocked them out of the park. Overwhelmingly successful on that front, with the single exception of finishing my current novel. But that's going to get done this year. No resolution, just a statement of fact, because I cleared all of my other existing writing projects and published a three novella collection in November!

And, because I am both a student and a teacher of history, I would like to take a moment and briefly address what took place in the U.S. Capitol today.

Let me begin to saying how utterly horrified I was to serve as a remote witness to the violence visited upon our capitol and our republic today. There is no getting around the facts: a mob, whipped into a frenzy by our current president, marched to the Capitol and interrupted Congress' confirmation count of the 2020 election results. They chased the Congress into lockdown. They took selfies all over the Capitol (and published them on social media. Evidence much?). They smashed. They stole. They burned. They dropped at least two explosive devices in their wake. Four people lost their lives.

For some context, the Capitol has been the scene of violence a number of times before. The British burned it in August of 1814

In May of 1856 a South Carolina congressman named Preston Brooks entered the Senate Chamber, and
broke his cane beating the stuffing out of New England anti-slavery firebrand senator Charles Sumner
. Brooks insisted he was defending the honor of his kinsman, a South Carolina senator Sumner had just insulted in a speech on the Senate floor. Brooks was censured in the House, resigned, and was reelected to his open seat in the House. Members of Congress went to the Capitol heavily armed for months afterward. The incident was just one more step on the road to the Civil War. 

In March of 1954 a group of four Puerto Rican separatists opened fire in the House of Representatives and wounded five congressmen. They languished in jail for years before being paroled in the late 1960s.

If I had to guess, I would say that the thugs who took pictures of themselves sitting in places like Speaker Pelosi's office today, who looted the Capitol, who shattered windows and broke down doors, and left their trash heaped in their wake are far more likely to come suffer a consequence similar to the one suffered by those Puerto Rican separatists (arrest, prosecution and imprisonment) than the lack of them Preston Brooks experienced. They're already being tracked and identified on Twitter.

So while I am disgusted and horrified by the events of today, I remain hopeful for the future. Congress certified the Electoral College results this evening after a five hours delay. We bounce back. And we have gotten through worse.

Like that time at his inauguration afterparty when Andrew Jackson had the Executive Mansion staff set up bowls of (alcoholic) punch on the White House lawn to lure the thousands of trespassers who had just completed trashed the "People's House," celebrating his inauguration.

So finally (Remember this number!): See you in two weeks!


  1. The thin silver lining in all of this is, I think, that people watching the mob on TV or smartphone - including our Congresscritters - have had, for the first time, the idea that the mob might well come / was coming after them. Because once a mob starts, it's hard to stop. Meanwhile, there's a lot of right-wing sites still saying "Oh, it wasn't THAT bad..." We're doing well. Now. But for how long?

  2. I was in Washington in 1970, for one of the moratorium gatherings protesting our war on the Vietnamese people. And I was arrested and got to spend the night in RFK Stadium. We were angry and sad and disappointed in out country. But the events of January 6, 2021 were not about reversing, putting an end to, a grotesquely awful policy. It was about, in truth, an attempt to destroy America's democracy. And while that attempt failed yesterday, the danger, it seems to me, persists. And it is not unlikely that the mob can be evoked again. I'm afraid this is *not* over.

  3. Ah, Brian, you are always interesting.

    Looks like Adam Johnson, the smiling, alleged lectern thief, would be a great candidate for the Dumbest Criminal of the Year Award.

  4. Eve - let's hope their encounter with the mob knocks some sense of some of these enablers.

    Don - I think you're right that this is not the end. I am hopeful, however, that the change in tone being set by a new president and a new administration, to say nothing of the work to be done by a fully functioning, independent Justice Department is going to be enough for us to meet this challenge as a society and a country.

    R.T. - Adam Johnson's wife is a doctor practicing in Florida. Think she'll still have her current job by the end of the week? And his story reminds me of some of the ones you encountered during your law enforcement career. But did any of the dim bulbs you crossed paths with smile for Getty photographers in mid-criming, or better yet, take SELFIES and publish them on Social Media? What was the hashtag? "#LivingMyBestHouseSpeakerLife"?

  5. Well considered article, Brian.

    I didn't know Johnson's wife was a doctor, but considering Florida politicians and Bradenton, yeah, she'll keep her job. Hell, Governor DeSantis might send her a fruit basket. After all, our corrupt former governor and now corrupt senator Rick Scott voted FOR the Pennsylvania objection, as did loose cannon Matt Gaetz.


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