Let’s be clear, the riots in the United States Capitol were an insurrection.
The Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution — outline individual liberties that are essential to Americans’ way of life. The first of these amendments protects Americans’ freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition the government.
Key to this amendment is the word “peaceably.” Sadly, the events that took place on Jan. 6 were far from peaceful. Rather, they erupted into chaos and violence that led to the destruction of historical American artifacts, severe human injuries, and the death of six Americans, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers.
What I witnessed that day I hope to never witness again.
I hope to never again witness such a grave disgrace of American principles. I hope to never again see such violence carried out, instilling fear in the eyes of my colleagues, staff, and all those around me, including law enforcement. I hope to never again witness an assault against our seat of government, carried out by some of our country’s very own.
The United States of America has been heralded for centuries as a beacon of democracy in the free world. Though not perfect, our Constitution has guided our governmental procedures since its ratification in 1787. A product of great labor and cooperation by its authors, the Constitution established a level of decorum and honor that the United States has come to be known for throughout history. Ideals such as “for the People, by the People, and of the People,” civil discourse and compromise, and the peaceful transition of power are all badges our nation has worn proudly for 243 years. The Jan. 6 siege tarnished these badges.
Jan. 6, 2021, was nothing like the events of 1776, when our Founding Fathers stood up to a tyrannic monarchy to fight for the very rights that were abused during the siege. Not only was the recent insurrection a slap in the face to those who died for our freedoms, it was inherently un-American, and a stain on our nation’s history.
Do not mistake me, we have always been a flawed nation. But to be an American is to set out each day to live by our country’s values, and to resolve our problems with dignity and respect. Where we have differences, we must learn to listen to each other – really listen – to respect those differences, and then work like never before to find common ground as Americans.
“Americans.” That’s the only label that should matter to any of us right now.
There is only one way forward. Recognizing that not all who attended the rally earlier that day participated in the Capitol siege, justice must be served against all parties responsible for the violence. Violence is never the answer, no matter the cause. We share this great land, and we cannot continue down this road of division and destruction. It will only get worse.
Regardless of political ideology, regardless of the past, I ask my fellow Ohioans to join me in embarking on a new day in America, in which we treat each other with kindness and live up to the ideals set forth by our nation’s founders.
Congressman Troy Balderson represents Ohio’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.