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Steve Boggs: Move on from January 6? Nope

Steve Boggs: Move on from January 6? Nope

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I’m never going to “move on” from the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Throughout the remainder of my life, that will always be a day of national shame, embarrassment and anger in my mind. My children will carry those emotions with them after I’m gone, I’m sure.

The rioters who assaulted U.S. Capitol Police officers and forced their way into our Capitol, then proceeded to trash it, enraged most decent people in this country last January. Every day since then, even as apologists and supporters of the former president try to pry our emotions away from those events, it becomes even more of an embarrassment — a bigger stain on our country’s history.

The losers who broke through police lines, assaulted law enforcement officers and forced their way into our closed Capitol did damage to my house. Yours, too. They disgraced themselves by breaking multiple laws in service to a lie. In just a few hours, our seat of government, where George Washington himself laid the cornerstone in 1793, was transformed from a deliberative body into a scene from the “The Purge.”

I get angry every time I see that idiot in face paint and headdress standing at the dais in the Senate chamber. That’s where my senators sit, you moron! Beat it!

I’ve been to the Capitol twice in my life. It is, or was, a majestic place — home to historic, generational events for more than 200 years. President Franklin D. Roosevelt told my father the news of Pearl Harbor from that building. President George W. Bush calmed a shattered nation after 9/11 with an address to Congress. Giants like Sam Rayburn, Robert S. Kerr and Carl Albert called that building their office.

The Capitol is the home of democracy. Regardless of your political bent, it is the seat of government for us all. To quote an inscription by Alexander Hamilton in the building: “Here, sir, the people govern.”

Like an unhinged pack of escaped convicts, for three long hours the people of Jan. 6 broke its windows, defecated in its halls and chanted “Hang Mike Pence” while we across America sat helplessly watching it all unfold on television. I can’t forgive what they did. I won’t ever forget. During my last trip there — a family vacation in the late 1990s — we visited the office of our congressman at the time. Wes Watkins represented Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District, the southeastern third of the state where I grew up. He was a longtime Democrat who joined the Republican Party after Bill Clinton was elected president. His wife, Lou, taught political science and government at East Central University in Ada, my alma mater. He was a friend of the family for many years.

Wes met us in the lobby of his office, said hello and shuffled out the door to go vote on something. Without asking, he scooped up my youngest daughter, grabbed the hand of my oldest daughter, and took them with him. Surprised and a little alarmed, we followed as far as we could. A terse but polite Capitol Police officer told us we were not allowed in House chambers and gave us directions to the gallery. When we got there, we saw Wes shaking hands with members of both parties and introducing our daughters to them on the House floor. He finally made his way to his desk, told my oldest what to do and let her cast his vote.

To this day, neither of my children can remember much about that trip — one that included visits to the Gateway Arch, Biltmore and Beale Street — but they both remember going onto the House floor. They know how special the Capitol is to this country, and they view its symbolism with reverence.

Most of my family — parents, siblings, cousins — have stopped to rub Will Rogers’ foot in the National Statuary Hall during visits to the Capitol. It’s not just good luck, it’s mandatory if you’re from Oklahoma. It’s said the famed humorist asked to be placed facing the House chambers so he could keep an eye on Congress from the hereafter. Rogers used wit, humor and wry observation to exact a critical toll on members of Congress during his day. I wonder what he would say about the Jan. 6 insurrection?

As much as I revere the Capitol and those who occupy it, I also realize we live in an age of gridlock, and that political parties for the most part keep our government from functioning as the founders intended. I don’t agree with either U.S. senator from Texas on most issues, but I respect their office enough to yell/scream/cuss when some red-hat redneck breaks into their place of work uninvited.

What happened outside police barricades on Jan. 6 is fair game. Those protesters made their misguided feelings known without breaking any major laws. I’m a big proponent of the right to protest, and those who didn’t cross the barricades and ignore police commands did it right. The 700 or so who didn’t should be jailed and made to register as lacking common sense.

It’s a simple line, don’t you think? Police barricades, police commands. Those who crossed them in Portland, and in Minneapolis, and in Ferguson, should be locked up right alongside the insurrectionists in Washington.

My children are grown now, and Wes long ago retired from Congress. The Capitol itself is somehow different these days. If American democracy falls, and it’s a 50-50 proposition at this point, how embarrassing to think the turning point came at the hands of mindless wannabes following the sour-grapes wishes of a celebrity president.

I’m sure Will Rogers would have the words. Or at least put his shiny foot to work.

Steve Boggs is a native of Leflore, Okla., and has been editor of the Tribune-Herald since 2014.


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