What are we to make of the riveting testimony on the first day of hearings by the House Select Committee investigating events leading up to the insurrection on the Capitol on January 6? Comments delivered by four DC police officers, reminded us once again of the violence on that fateful day and how close we came to a major disruption of the transition of power—a foundation of American democracy itself. What did we learn from this inquiry? Three things come to mind:
First: Thank God for these men—and scores like them—who endured life-threatening physical abuse, replete with vicious taunting and racial slurs, from a violent angry mob of Trump supporters. Their heartfelt and sometimes halting testimony left no doubt as to the mob’s make-up (not Antifa, not BLM, not just curious tourists—as some have claimed). It was Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Qanon conspiracists and followers of the former president that made up the insurrectionist mob. It is inspirational to note that despite recent divisive rhetoric and rampant polarization, there are those among us willing to defend the higher ideals upon which this country was built.
The officers’ harrowing experiences offered an intimate personal lens through which to view the events on January 6, insurrectionist actions that have now become familiar through repeated stories featured on the nightly news. Their testimony portrayed in graphic detail the courage exemplified by law enforcement personnel in the face of overwhelming odds, and the frustration felt by these officers that some of those who they protected on that January day were now raising doubts about the intensity of the threat they faced.
Second: How could they have been left so vulnerable? It is up to the Select Committee to probe why widely reported advance warnings of potential violence were underplayed or ignored altogether. Why was such a meager, ill-equipped contingent dispatched to defend the Capitol on the day the electoral college vote was to be certified? Why was there so little support from those high up in the chain of command? And why did it take so long—hours!—for back-up forces to arrive? Can the Select Committee answer these questions? They are off to a good start; but ultimately, time will tell.
Third: At least on the first day of testimony, Nancy Pelosi’s action in rejecting two vehemently pro-Trump Republicans from the Select Committee was vindicated. The hearing took place without rancor as the usual antics from past Republican disrupters was absent. Testimony was given in a solemn atmosphere that proceeded with the singular purpose to get at the truth, divorced from the political theatre that we have come to expect in so many recent Congressional hearings. Republicans on the Select Committee–Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinsinger—read statements and asked questions, filled with patriotic passion and raw human emotion, consistent with the Select Committee’s goal to discern the truth and to hold accountable those responsible for this troubling day. For that, they have been justifiably praised.
But as Officer Harry Dunn remarked, “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes and while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is.” Thank God, there are some among us in this America, who are still willing to tell the truth, irrespective of the cost. Let us all be attentive in the weeks to come to be sure that the whole truth continues to emerge from the Select Committee.