A year later, updates continue on the Capitol Insurrection as many issues surrounding it remain unresolved. (Photo Credit: Isabel Bequer/Photoshop/AchonaOnline)
A year later, updates continue on the Capitol Insurrection as many issues surrounding it remain unresolved.

Photo Credit: Isabel Bequer/Photoshop/AchonaOnline

A year after the Capitol insurrection, America remains divided (EDITORIAL)

January 14, 2022

In the year that has passed since the January 6 insurrection at the United States’ Capitol building, much has been done in response to the event itself. However, these actions have done little to get rid of the driving forces that brought the day about and that continue to plague the country today.

The main force behind the event was misinformation about the 2020 presidential election — namely, that Joe Biden’s win was due to voter fraud caused by the Democratic party, and the former president Donald Trump was the rightful winner. Misinformation was spread online through chat rooms and social media, but was also encouraged by Trump himself. On the day of the insurrection itself, Trump spoke at his “Save America” rally, continuing to spread false information about the election.

It was such misinformation that was the reasoning behind the event, as it was meant to interrupt the counting of electoral votes in the Senate that day. Although largely ceremonial, officially counting the votes would declare Biden the president-elect. It also happened the day the Senate gained the majority in the Senate, with the victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special election.

“I know I was supposed to be shocked by the Capitol insurrection, but I really wasn’t. I mean, with all of the conflict that has been going on in America recently and the amount of entitlement that a lot of Trump supporters felt, the attack felt inevitable,” said Bella Otte (‘24).

This untrue viewpoint of the election has continued in the past year, resulting in an explosion of new voting laws in dozens of states, both expanding and restricting voting rights. While many are expanding democracy through the inclusion of more people in voting, many Republican dominated states, most prominently Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, have restricted voting rights through measures such as new ID requirements, shortening the window for mail-in voting, and banning extended voting hours. These bills unfairly target lower-class Americans who may be unable to vote during regular voting periods. They are also designed to unjustly prevent Democrats from winning, as many votes for Biden were from mail-in voting.

While the repercussions of the ideology surrounding the riot continue to the detriment of Americans, the actual event and its violence has also not been resolved. The Department of Justice has arrested over 725 suspects, but only a fraction of them have gone to trial. Out of those arrested, 165 have pleaded, with 20 to felonies and the rest to misdemeanors. 70 have been sentenced, but only 30 received time in prison. Considering an estimated 2000 to 2500 people entered the Capitol in the riot, it is clear there is much more work to be done. 

While FBI director Christopher Wray may have called it an act of “domestic terrorism,” suspects have not been treated as such. Despite actively putting Congressmen in danger, most have only been charged with misdemeanors. The Justice Department has only just put out their first sedition charge against alt-right group the Oath Keepers, but such action comes late, considering a year has passed and they have been thought to be involved from the beginning of the investigation. Many Americans have low expectations for the severity of punishments, with Pew Research Center finding that 47% of Americans expected charges to be less severe than they should be.

“I feel like a lot of [suspects] haven’t been caught yet. A lot of people did a lot of damage not only to the Capitol but to the people inside. I’d love to think that the rest of them are going to be tried fairly, but I really do not have much faith that a lot of them are going to get the justice they deserve for it. It’s not like the system is a failure, but it is failing a lot of people,” said Catalina Salgado (‘24).

It is apparent that America has not even truly begun to heal from the turmoil of the day. Rather, many wounds have only become more inflamed, as extremism and division rise around the nation. NPR revealed that analysis of the suspects involved on Jan 6 showed they were very different from right-wing violent protestors of the past — they were older, more educated, and had more financial and familial stability. Extremism has a new face in that of the average American

Extremism has also taken root in different ways across the country. No longer confined to the space of the internet to share conspiracy theories, far right perpetrators have taken local action to further their ideology. The most common form of their action has been through joining school boards, taking strong stances against the teaching of what they perceive as critical race theory and mask mandates. In this, they have politicized matters such as education and public health, furthering division in places where it is not only unnecessary, but extremely harmful.

 

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The question then becomes how the country can start to repair itself. Hope for justice to be served, but recognize that justice is not enough. Rather we must work to solve the issues that brought us here in the first place. The main way to do resolve these issues is through education. It is impossible to rid the world of misinformation entirely, especially in the age of social media. However,  it is important to listen to experts and reliable sources when building opinions on political affairs. False information continues to spread about the 2020 election, enough that people still feel the insurrection was justified, and was truly for a noble cause. Misinformation has also spread to other areas the alt-right believes in, such as the impotence of vaccines. These beliefs actively harm themselves and others, making America less safe and more divided.

But with the education of ourselves and others must also come compromise. Now, this does not mean giving into extremism on either side of the political spectrum. Rather, it is about finding common ground within the typical two parties. After the 2020 election, most Biden and Trump supporters said they did not share the same core values of the other side. only about one in five Trump and Biden supporters said they shared the same core American values. With such compromise, hopefully more people will be pulled in from the fringe beliefs that have begun to dominate so many spaces. 

Dana Camp (’24) said, “I think it’s a big issue that everything has become about which side you support. I feel like if we focus on just getting public stability back up and focus on stuff both sides can agree on, we can build relations back again and not feel as divided as we do now.”

The above is not a perfect or all encompassing solution. Coming up with such an idea is practically impossible. But there is not time to wait for the perfect resolution, as America cannot continue like this any longer. This time of extremism not only goes against many American ideals, it also endangers the lives of American citizens every single day. As ideas like replacement theory continue to be perpetrated, people of color and other underprivileged groups face violence and discrimination. And while education and compromise are truly only the first steps, they are what is necessary to even begin to try and repair our imperfect union.

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