The insurrection at the Capitol must be a 9/11 moment, or our republic will not survive

The last Republican president, of all people, did not mince words in his contempt for the insurrection and attempted coup by Trump-supporting terrorists at the US Capitol as Senators and Representatives met to count the certified electoral votes of the presidential election.

What has happened - and still happening, though law enforcement has secured the Capitol building - today at the US Capitol and Congress has reconvened, just as the houses of Congress had separated to debate after Trump's Congressional backers raised objection to counting the electoral votes of the State of Arizona in favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, can only be described, in the most polite of terms, as an insurrection, as President Bush did in his statement.

President-elect Joe Biden called out the act of insurrection as well. Knowing it will fall on him to unite this country that appears more hopelessly divided today than ever before, Biden sought to assure us that today's events did not define the true character of the American people.

Trump supporters stormed the Capitol after they were encouraged to walk to the Capitol building by Donald Trump himself, in a speech he gave to his sycophants at the rally organized explicitly to prevent the Constitutionally and legally mandated counting of the electoral votes by Congress. The domestic terrorists broke windows, invaded the Capitol building, lawmakers' offices, and the floors of the House and the Senate, and spilled blood.

Today's events are an insurrection against the United States by domestic terrorists. They are acts of cowards and traitors that are the ideological brethren of the people who planned to commit treason by kidnapping and executing governors.

Today's events are the crescendo after a decade and a half of inciting white supremacists for political gain by one political party. But they also appear to have taken those very inciters by shock, and spurred a consensus of condemnation throughout current and former public officials, the fourth estate, and even the business community.

In the way that it was an unprecedented terrorist attack at the heart of the core institutions that define our country, our government, and our democracy, President Bush's statement is especially appropriate and piercing. The former president, who is by far not my favorite political figure, at an early and consequential point in his presidency, led this country through the attacks of September 11, 2001. The only differences between the attacks on 9/11 and today were the fact that those who flew the planes on 9/11 came from outside our borders and the death toll was 3,000. But the terrorists then, like now, struck at the center of power. In their case, it was the Pentagon.

9/11 brought America together. President Bush would later proceed to tear it back apart, but for the moment, it brought America together. President Bush himself insisted publicly that violence against Muslims is wrong and that Islam is a religion of peace being hijacked by the terrorists. Democrats and Republicans in the House stood together on the Capitol steps and sang God Bless America.

Today's attacks must be a 9/11 moment, not just in the gravity of its threat to the republic but in the measure of our response to it. The condemnation that has come from across the political spectrum must take the form of action. It must spurn the inciting rhetoric that led us to this point. The rhetoric that demonizes vulnerable and disempowered populations, the rhetoric of terming reporters and the media - and those with politics different from those who committed this atrocity - as the enemy must be stopped, and if not stopped, relegated to the dark fringes.

That means extremists must be swiftly brought to justice, that government must return to the work of working together for the good of the country, that compromise must stop being a dirty word in our political discourse.

We must begin to build back a country where our common humanity once again overcomes our differences. We must get back to disagreeing on the merits rather than demonizing the motives of our opponents.

If we are unable to do so, this republic we have kept and perfected for over 250 years will not survive.

The good news is, there is no one better prepared for that job than President-elect Joe Biden.

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