The domestic terrorist attack last week, by American citizens, visited on the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC is the apex of irony.
Later this year, Americans and citizens of other democracies will take time out of their days to mark the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City by foreign terrorists and the associated loss of life.
The chief irony will be that these commemorations will also make reference to the brave citizens whose identities were never known who managed to wrest control of the hijacked passenger aircraft, Flight 93, whose target was that same US Capitol Building in Washington.
These brave souls caused the aircraft to crash land in Pennsylvania en route to its target: the symbolic home of the US democracy. All lives were lost, terrorists and those who resisted them alike, along with the lives of the rest of the passengers, all of them ordinary people who happened to be in the wrong aircraft at the wrong time. Or, more properly in the circumstances, the right place at the right time, certainly in the case of the heroes who brought down the airplane well short of its intended target.
The commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the horrors of the event that quickly came to be known by the abbreviation of its day and month—9/11—is just nine months from now.
That event shook American society and appropriately elicited sympathy from governments and individuals worldwide who stood in solidarity that something like this could be visited on a nation that stands for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
The intent by foreign terrorists to destroy that same Capitol Building, that was in all likelihood saved from catastrophic destruction nearly 20 years ago by the heroic events of ordinary Americans, stands in unbelievable contrast to the actions of last week’s mob of American homegrown terrorists who invaded the Capitol Building, also intent on destruction and, in all likelihood, murder. Thankfully, those homegrown terrorists were also stymied by a handful of brave individuals defending the heart of their nation.
Was this symbol of American democracy saved by the unknown heroes who managed to veer that airplane from its destructive path and so deny the foreign terrorists what would have been their signal victory on 9/11 just so that, nearly two decades later, a mob of domestic terrorists could accomplish what the offshore terrorists failed to do?
Both of these events received worldwide news coverage. Both events shocked the world.
Nearly 20 years ago, the events of 9/11 were a unifying force in the United States. People came together in the face of an unexpected attack. Red and blue political differences were much less important for the nation had been viciously attacked. People stood together and the world stood with them.
Four years ago, the Americans chose to elect a demagogue as president. Not only that, they elected a president who has increasingly demonstrated an ever-more tenuous group on reality.
No question, he and his minions fanned the flames that led to last Wednesday’s terrorist attack on the Capitol Building precisely when all the members of both houses of the American Congress were seated together. Another irony: nearly 20 years ago, on 9/11, all the members of the US Congress had also been in session, doing the nation’s business when they too were the target of terrorists.
In each iteration of the two attacks on the Capitol Building, events could have unfolded with much more tragic outcomes.
We would think that the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the terrible loss of life that ensued on 9/11 and the consequent bringing together at that time of the American people as they faced a common enemy would have endured; that a domestic attack on this symbol of the common goals of America and its citizens would have been unthinkable, even 20 years on.
That’s what we would like to think.
But in the nearly 20-year interval, the world has changed…a lot. The internet has come into its own, spawning diverse tentacles that disperse an unimaginable volume of information, much of it malignant.
This has enabled the demagogue the people elected four years ago to turn his presidency into a cult, with the willing assistance of his many enablers, who for reasons that are really unknowable and illogical wish to sew suspicion and dissent of ideas and institutions that, 20 years ago, were largely well thought of and generally trusted.
That spirit of distrust and dissent led directly to last Wednesday’s domestic attack on the nation’s members of the US Congress and its legislative building, all in broad daylight! People who were angry at Jihadist militants from Middle Eastern nations 20 years ago have managed to redirect this anger on their own institutions for all the world to see.
This is an American problem and it must be solved by people of good will south of our border. But the nations of the world, in particular Canada as the closest neighbour with all the positive energy that flows between our countries in terms of commerce, arts, defence and personal relationships must be particularly heedful of the hurting place that the United States has come to be and to offer our communal support, by way of example, and this must be a priority for both individuals, businesses and our national government.