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The Day Democracy Was Attacked

Marc Elias – “Washington, D.C. is no stranger to protests. The Lincoln Memorial, just across the Mall from the U.S. Capitol, is the most famous backdrop for speeches about how we make our country “more perfect.” It is where Martin Luther King Jr. told the nation about his dream. When crowds are drawn to the Capitol, it is because they believe in the power of democracy and want to make their voices heard by elected officials, in the hopes of influencing their decisions. But it was all different this time. On January 6, insurrectionists descended on the Capitol to violently attack it. They did not assemble outside of the Capitol to strengthen democracy by making their voices heard; they sought to destroy democracy by storming the building to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. While some who breached the Capitol were dressed in bizarre costumes, most appeared unremarkable. They did not look like revolutionaries, but rather like tourists. Some took selfies. We now know that they were indeed quite ordinary—a businessman, a former member of the military, a small business owner, the son of a judge, even a state legislator. I was reminded of Hannah Arendt describing the trial of Adolf Eichmann. “The trouble,” she wrote, “was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”…

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