In this very space one year ago, this newspaper urged our readers to turn the page on a tumultuous 2020 by treating each other better in the wake of a hard-fought election and the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. We wrote that there appeared to be a new optimism in the air, that things couldn’t get much worse.

Wishful thinking. While the paper was being printed that day, a vicious mob was mounting an insurrection against the United States seat of power, the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., smashing their way into the building, assaulting capitol police officers and attempting to halt the certification of the 2020 election, threatening the Republican vice president and members of the U.S. Congress, who had to flee.

We watched in shock and disbelief as our own citizens attacked the capitol, the first capitol breach since the War of 1812, spurred on by baseless claims of massive election fraud, claims that have been investigated and debunked by numerous court cases and investigations, most recently an exhaustive study conducted by the Associated Press in key battleground states.

Think of the great attacks on the United States and their effect on our people. Think of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously called “a date which will live in infamy.” Or think of September 11, 2001, jetliner attacks, which President George W. Bush called “evil, despicable acts of terror” and “acts of mass murder intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.”

In each case, our people united, solidarity soared and we acted as one body sharing a common bond as citizens of the United States. The Greatest Generation rose up to defeat fascism and win World War II, and we marshaled our forces during the 2000s to protect our nation from international terrorism.

But in recent years our nation has been anything but united, and we are beset by frightening acts of domestic terrorism, the greatest of which took place one year ago. It was horrifying.

As Pogo creator Walt Kelly famously wrote in 1970, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Indeed, it seems farfetched even to call us the “United” States of America at this time, such is the sense of division and hatred directed at fellow citizens.

As we wrote a week after the attacks one year ago: “We have become the Hatfields and McCoys, engaging a never-ending feud forged by rage and fear to the point that we can’t even remember who started it. Each volley is met by retaliation, tit for tat, an intense desire to punish the other side.

“Gone are the days of governing with respect, agreeing to disagree and moving forward. Now it is either you are with me 100 percent, or you’re the enemy. There is no middle ground.”

Sadly, we fear that things are little better as 2022 begins, and, if anything, our hearts are even more hardened. In fact, many citizens see January 6, 2021, as a righteous protest against tyranny led by well-meaning patriots.

Indeed, according to a new poll taken by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, while nearly two-thirds of Americans polled view the events at the capitol on January 6, 2021, as “extremely or very” violent, 14 percent – including 29 percent of Republicans – recall the attack as “not very or not at all” violent, and another 22 percent – 32 percent of Republicans – remember the insurrection as just “somewhat violent.”

Did they miss the scenes of rioters clubbing police officers with flagpoles and fire extinguishers, smashing windows and doors and crushing one officer between doors as he screamed in agony?

Many politicians, including former Vice President Pence himself, have sought to downplay the insurrection in recent months.

And this is why we fear for the future of our democracy. Many folks seem to prefer government by coup or at the very least are working to erode our election system to capture power.

In the most recent issue of “The Atlantic” magazine, Barton Gellman writes in a story entitled “January 6 was Practice” that the next attempt to overthrow a national election in 2024 may not technically qualify as a coup but will rely on subversion more than violence. Gellman posits that “the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024.” Rather, “thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be declared president-elect.”

So, what are we to do? There are national efforts by members of both major political parties to thwart this kind of election process takeover, which we should support, and here in Wyoming we must fend off attempts to erode the election process and voting access.

Remember that our election system works only because we all believe in it. Democracy is fragile.

Wyoming can show the way and be a leader to defend our democracy. But to do so will take patience, understanding and a willingness to listen to a variety of opinions. It will also take civic engagement.

These are scary times. Let’s work to become part of the solution, not the problem.

Lovell Chronicle

Jan. 6

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