What-about-ism can not explain away Capitol insurgency

This guest column by Dayton native Will McKelvey, an U.S. House of Representatives worker, appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Saturday, Jan. 23.

I began my first job in Congress just ten days after Donald Trump’s swearing-in as President of the United States in 2017.

His inauguration coincided with the first-ever Women’s March, a massive, peaceful show of resistance and civic energy on the scale of Vietnam War and civil rights protests.

Over the four years of President Trump’s rule, we saw a marked increase in political engagement and unrest: in the summer of 2017, activists filled Congressional office buildings to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; this past spring, The police killing of George Floyd sparked waves of protests across the nation; the 2020 election had the highest percentage of voter turnout in 120 years.

Those were all noble examples of the exercise of the rights afforded to us by our nation’s great Constitution. The Jan. 6 violent invasion and ransacking of the Capitol Building by a mob of Trump supporters was not a model of activism and freedom; it was an insurrection.

During the 2017 ACA-repeal debate, I could hear the shouts of protesters echo through the halls almost daily from my office on Capitol Hill.

What do you think? Does Will McKelvey have it right? Is What-about-ism hiding the true causes of the Capitol insurgency? Contact Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson. Letters to the Editor are submitted reflections from readers of 150 words or less. Letters to the editor should be sent to edletter@Coxinc.com. Please include a daytime phone number, your full name and the city in which you reside.

Multiple committee hearings were paused as Capitol Police forcibly removed dissenters, many of whom were wheelchair-using representatives of the disability-rights group ADAPT.

Not once did I ever fear for my safety.

These activists were angry, and they weren’t going to stop until they achieved their goal of defending health care for all Americans, but they weren’t going to hurt anyone. This past Wednesday, as the unruly mob smashed through the doors and windows of the poorly defended Capitol Building, I feared for the safety of everyone. Not just elected officials and Congressional staffers, but the building’s support workers and the officers sworn to protect us, as well.

Those who will inevitably attempt to justify the Capitol violence, which, tragically, left five dead and dozens injured, invoked “what-about-ism,” comparing the efforts of this anti-democratic horde to those who have taken to the streets to protest the police murders of countless Black Americans.

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Posted by Dayton Daily News on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

In reality, there are no parallels.

Those who rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were defending the safety of their fellow countrymen. The extremists who overran the seat of our nation’s legislative body were avenging the wounded pride of a petty, wannabe-despot, embarrassed by his resounding defeat in a free and fair election.

That election (in which President Joe Biden earned more than seven million more votes than President Trump) was a microcosm of the great ongoing experiment of American democracy. It was loud, vitriolic, and occasionally unruly, but ultimately, it was honest.

Nearly 160 million citizens fulfilled their civic duty and cast their ballots. In my heart, I know that every voter did what they thought was best for their nation. Wednesday’s chaos, encouraged by the losing candidate, was an attempt to end our democracy and return to the tyrannical rule from which our forefathers fought to free us.

In 1814, the British Army invaded and burned the Capitol Building. In 1954, members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party opened fire in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, wounding five Congressmen. And on January 6th, 2021, thousands of American citizens violently stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

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Posted by Dayton Daily News on Monday, January 25, 2021

They were urged by the President and stoked by decades of systematic degradation of trust in our public institutions led by the Republican Party and rightwing media outlets. All three assaults on the Capitol are attacks on America’s foundation of deliberation and democracy.

The Capitol chaos was nothing like the civil unrest that has helped mold our nation over the last 250 years. It was an attempt to tear apart our United States.

Will McKelvey is a native Daytonian and Chaminade Julienne graduate currently working in the U.S. House of Representatives. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces.

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