I would not have scheduled kidney surgery for Jan. 7 in downtown Washington D.C., had I known that there would be a deadly riot at the Capitol on the 6th. It was more than anesthesia that stunned me as I watched news reports of that attack while recovering in a nearby hospital. Video evidence showed fellow Americans attacking our Capitol and seeking to overthrow November’s election and the peaceful transition of power. The involvement of discredited former president Donald Trump was horrifying. Of even greater concern was the motivation of the rioters. Their violence killed five people, including a police officer, and injured another 139 officers. Yet rioters felt they were “defending democracy.” Meanwhile they threatened the rule of law by seeking to overthrow an election that was repeatedly ruled legitimate by courts and officials alike, including by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump’s own Attorney General.
In this republic, we recognize the law as the ultimate authority. We swear loyalty to the Constitution, not to any individual or party. Yet among these “pro-democracy” rioters, enraged after being told the election was “stolen,” the predominant symbol of the January 6th riot was a blue and white Donald Trump flag. Many also carried “QAnon” banners, chanted “America First,” and waved “AF” flags, as we saw in video taken that day and also transcribed in the Jan. 25th New Yorker. “AF” is “unconditionally” loyal to Trump, according to organizer Nicholas Fuentes, who also said, “If we can’t get a country that we deserve to live in through the legitimate process, then maybe we need to begin to explore other options.” Fuentes denies the reality of the Holocaust and claims that whites today are under attack. White supremacists from various groups participated in the mob that carried a huge Confederate flag into the Congress on Jan 6th. The Capitol during the Civil War never endured such an invasion. Members of AF also turned on Vice-President Mike Pence, who had been present in the Senate chamber as required by law, supervising the counting of Electoral College ballots. Pence barely escaped the horde chanting “hang Mike Pence.” The scaffold and rope previously erected outside lent credibility to the threat. During the riot, a young man with a large “AF” flag sat in the chair vacated by Pence. The young man stated, “Donald Trump is the emperor of the United States.” Did he realize that rule by emperor would be possible only if our representative democracy was overthrown, making a mockery of any “pro-democracy” theme? This young man and many like him have been failed by our education system, and by our society. American loyalty to the rule of law, the peaceful transition of power, and the freedom of religion should not be a secret. Neither should our basic allegiance to factual truth.