In the days since the riot upon on the Capitol, there was a brief moment of unity lasting for a few hours, and now comes the wake of calls demanding resignations of many of those same congressional legislators coming under attack, including cries against our own Rep. Mike Garcia.
Contrary to what we have been seeing, as of late, it is possible to passionately dialogue and debate without resorting to dire divisions, dastardly diatribes, or a deafening silencing of the dissent.
The riot upon the Capitol was wrong. Period. Full stop.
In addition to the death, destruction and deepened divide, it also derailed the attempt that was being taken at the very time of the attack to address the constitutional statutes requiring that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof,” and that, “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct.”
This insurrection did a disservice to democracy (in both direct and indirect forms, as by our representatives) and served to deal a near death blow on any discussion about legitimate concerns over election integrity.
Furthermore, the fallout from this fatal fiasco continues to fan the flames of animosity and fuel contempt. Recently, these fires have raged to the point that representatives on both sides of the debate — as to whether potential violations to the aforementioned constitutional statutes warranted a pause in what should be more than a mere ceremonial proceeding — have come under accusation and attack to the point of calls for resignation, questions of their patriotism, fitness to serve, fulfilling of their constitutional oath of office, and even being directly accosted in airports and public spaces.
To be clear, elected officials should be held accountable for their actions, votes and even their words. They are not above the standards of governance and the social contract under which we all abide. Fundamental to the contract, though, is the tenet that we are all responsible for our own actions.
Responsibility for the riots rests with those who engaged in riotous acts, illegal actions, rising to the point of destruction of property, and all-out assault resulting in the injury and deaths of people present.
While it is inevitable to search for an explanation in the face of tragedy, those who would attempt to absolve any individuals from their responsibility and from facing the consequences of their actions, by suggesting that the individuals had been pushed to act in this way, are negating the fundamental distinction that the responsibility for an action rests with the person acting.
This same principle also prohibits a transference of blame to another for what caused one individual to act in a particular way. Engaging in either false justification starts an endless process of looking back at the triggering events for causation.
Suicide bombers who strap vests to themselves may have had their head filled with lies from charismatic religious and/or political leaders, but it is ultimately their belief in the lie and their action upon that belief that results in the action they take.
It has long been debated what makes one a freedom fighter and another a terrorist? What makes one a patriot and another a traitor? When is it justifiable to use force and when is it a violation of rule of law? What is the evaluative standard for the provocation and response of violence?
While such questions are unlikely to find their answer anytime soon, what can be answered is that the actions at the Capitol were a violation of the rule of law. If law is to be enacted it requires that legislators be permitted to dialogue and debate, and that process is not served when their attempts to do so are blocked by riot, revenge, or resentful cries for resignation in response to either or both.
At this time of great divide, it would be wise to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln, who knew the risks that awaited if cooler heads were unable to prevail in resolving the divide: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While he did not expect the Union to be dissolved or the house to fall, just what one thing or the other might become of this nation, which stands on a precipice, calls for calm and balance, rather than rage and reaction.