The weekend weather forecasts called for snow on Sunday, but that didn’t deter us from heading to Cedar Hill State Park. Considering the events that had unfolded at the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, we needed an escape. We were not at all surprised that the president could whip his followers into a frenzy. After all, we’ve observed plenty of die-hard Trump supporters during our camping trips. Their devotion to the president has always seemed to have a certain cult-like quality. But what transpired at the Capitol came as a complete shock. The idea that an angry mob would advance on the U.S. Capitol — the first time the building would be overtaken since it was set ablaze by British troops during the War of 1812 — sounded too far-fetched to be believable. But the idea that the angry mob causing death and destruction would be American citizens rallying behind the inflammatory language of a U.S. president who refused to accept the will of more than 81 million other Americans who had voted him out of office was simply unimaginable. Yet here we are.
The president’s call that day for the crowd to march on the nearby Capitol was surely a spark that helped ignite the deadly riot, but the tinder for the blaze had been gathering for months, with every tweet that the election had been stolen, every refusal by Republican lawmakers to recognize Joe Biden as the next president, every dog-whistle call that emboldened white supremacist groups to violently strike.
Despite the immediate and long-term damage to our reputation around the world for carrying out peaceful transfers of power, and the failure of government agencies to defend against an attack on the Capitol, it could have been so much worse. Although hundreds of rioters assaulted the seat of American power — some with the clear intent of injuring, holding hostage, or even killing federal officials to stop them from certifying the vote — the legislators were able to return to their places and finalize the process.
Throughout the weekend, we spent long hours poring over media coverage and commentary about the attack and its aftermath. That’s why we so welcomed Sunday’s gentle snowfall. We could see the big fluffy flakes quickly accumulating on the surrounding trees, bringing them into stark relief against the gray sky. It was magical. And, for a moment at least, it distracted us from the world’s woes.
We have no idea what to expect in the coming days and weeks. We know the pandemic will rage on. It’s likely the president’s supporters will, too. But we hope we will never again see such a dark day for our democracy.