Editorial: Don’t forget Jan. 6, 2021, and what it says about U.S. [un]civil discourse

Jan. 6, 2021, is a date — like Dec. 7, 1941 — destined to live in infamy. Like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of a sleepy Hawaiian Sunday, the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol building cannot be ignored or forgotten.

Some on social media advised friends to stay away from televisions and the Internet during the rioters’ takeover of our national shrine to democracy, worried that they would become too distressed by the images. But we take a different view.

We hope that every citizen in our country spent hours in front of their TVs or computers so that they would at last realize how fragile our democracy truly is. We hope that people saw the rioters smashing the windows of the Capitol and congressional chambers, desecrating not only a building but our democracy itself. We hope they saw the disregard for the people’s house and for the legislators and staff working to build and secure that democracy. We hope they saw the statues defaced and the Confederate flag carried into our Capitol for the first time. And we hope they saw the depths to which our political discourse has fallen.

But we also hope they saw that the rioters didn’t win, that the vice president, our senators and representatives, and their staffs returned to take back the Capitol and resume the work of democracy, fulfilling their constitutional duty.

We hope they saw that we could come back from the brink.

Make no mistake: Our political discourse is troubled, and the events of Jan. 6 gave aid and comfort to our enemies. But hiding from the wounds of that day will not allow us to heal those wounds.

We each have a role to play in healing those wounds, demonstrating that rioters will not deter us from our work. We can carry on with our lives, as Congress did on that disturbing day and night. We can commit to greater civility in how we regard those who might hold different opinions or favor a different candidate. We can restore civics lessons to the nation’s schools so that the wisdom of our founders and our constitutional balance of powers is better understood.

And we can find areas worthy of compromise, with Democrats, Republicans and independents seeking common ground.

But don’t misunderstand: No quarter should be given to those rioters who stormed our Capitol and assaulted the bastion of our democracy. They deserve jail, and our contempt.