January 13, 2021-
The scene at the United States Capitol building today was, in terms of non-legislative presence, the opposite of what it was a week ago. Law enforcement, backed by a formidable National Guard presence, ensured that no one would interfere with the proceedings in the House of Representatives chamber. Capitol Police officers who may have shown questionable loyalty, last week, were nowhere in sight; their more resolute comrades held the front line- against adversaries who simply did not return.
I have read, and heard, several references to the Capitol as a sacred place, and as a repository of democratic values and practices, in many ways it is that. It is also a place where the most profane of deals have been struck. It was those unseemly affairs, done mostly in secret, which sparked a few (though not many) of the violent acts committed in the Capitol’s halls and chambers, on January 6.
Two wrongs, or a thousand, do not make a right. I approach grand public buildings and monuments, however, with respect, with reverence-even if there have been occasions when those in the buildings have committed acts worthy of reproach. Indeed, even when the initial premise behind the building’s construction has been questionable, I honour the larger context of its relevance to humanity. I am thinking here of The Alamo, the Spanish Missions, Yuma Territorial Prison and Forts McHenry & Sumter. Our grand Federal buildings and monuments, in the nation’s capital, were built largely with the labour of the enslaved. All, however, have elements of the sacred, which energy has served as a protection in the worst of times.
There is no human institution, no human being, who can reasonably claim to have never committed a profane act. Thus, it falls to each of us to find, and encourage, the angels of each other’s better nature-while bearing in mind the fallability that has shown its face, every so often.