My thoughts on the first anniversary of the Capitol Riot

January 6, 2021, for me, is now one of those where were you and what were you doing when it was happening events.

As an online-based professor, I was working at home as usual. I had the TV on, muted, in my home office as I sometimes do (it makes me feel less isolated). I was probably watching MSNBC or CNN and I ended up seeing the entire Capitol riot live.

I also was exchanging email messages almost in real-time with a former colleague and good friend. The guy was buried in his campus office getting ready for another in-person pandemic semester. He initially refused to believe my description of what I was watching, and I kept writing back “Get to a TV or find an Internet news feed.”

Like 9/11, it was that unbelievable. And like 9/11, I had the television on, mostly with sound (I still had to get my work done) and knowing I was seeing something as unprecedented as it was horrible.
If American democracy dies, that will be the day we all learned it had a terminal disease. A group of deluded zealots whipped up by a political adventurer and hustler tried through force to derail the results of a fair election and block the peaceful transfer of power.

Ultimately, they failed–this time. But the patient is still gravely ill and their survival is still uncertain. And if we survive will be incumbent on whether all those persons responsible for the Capitol riot are held accountable

That is where we stand at the moment. I now know something of how people in the North must have felt during the Civil War, wondering if the Union would yet endure. Hopefully, this nation doesn’t experience another civil war. But at the very least we have been for some time (since the 1990s at least) engaged in a cold war with each other, that flashes hot from time to time. And we wonder uneasily (to put it mildly) where history is taking us.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at
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1 Response to My thoughts on the first anniversary of the Capitol Riot

  1. Scott Chafin says:

    Just days before the anniversary, my wife and I drove up to the DC area, where one of my daughters and her husband lives, and we took two of my teenage grandsons to Washington’s home at Mount Vernon; to the African-American history museum near the Washington Monument (we’re white; about half of the visitors were); and (for the boys especially, to the Udvar-Hazy unit of the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport. In all places, we carefully and subtly reminded the boys that these places were our history, and that they belong to ALL Americans, and that we have to preserve them for all of those to come. While we rode Metro back to my daughters’ area, the boys rented scooters, and rode around DC. We have no doubt that they understand that we are a multi-cultural country, and that they are part of it. If they have to, they will fight for our democracy.

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