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True patriots stand for the country

Weekend voices: Susan Bigler

“Crown thy good with brotherhood”. RIP Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died fighting a mob alongside his brothers and sisters in uniform in defense of our Capitol and our elected representatives who were in the midst of doing the important and traditional work of formally counting the electoral votes and accepting the legitimate election of Joseph R. Biden as 46th president of the United States.

More important than a mere formality, this process signifies the very cornerstone of our democratic process, insuring the peaceful transition of power.

In this month of February, we celebrate Presidents’ Day. We honor in particular two of our greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington set the precedent for that peaceful transition of power, by voluntarily stepping down when there was wide support for him to be President for life. Lincoln kept the nation together when it was as divided as it could get. The legacies of both these presidents were being defended that day.

I write this piece for February, fresh from witnessing the coverage of the solemn ceremony honoring the sacrifice of Officer Sicknick, and it made a deep impression on me. He alone succumbed to his injuries, but many officers were wounded, scarred both physically and mentally. The insurrection of Jan. 6 left many emotionally traumatized, members of Congress, staff, Capitol employees, and the security and police force entrusted to their safety. So much so that two officers, Howard Liebengood and Jeffery Smith, could not live with the effect it had on them, and they ended their own lives.

Officer Sicknick was only the third officer to die defending the Capitol. Two officers were shot by a lone gunman who opened fire on them at the security checkpoint in 1998. They also lay in Honor in the Capitol Rotunda, a show of respect reserved for those who have made an extraordinarily patriotic contribution to the nation.

The ceremony of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning is significant because it demonstrated the exact opposite of what happened four weeks before when mobs of frenzied attackers ransacked and desecrated the building.

And we’ve all seen the footage of that. If we watched that in riveted horror and disbelief, we should also have given of our time to watch in riveted reverence as this brave officer was honored and the Capitol was cleansed in quiet, constructed ceremony; a ceremony based on years of tradition, links to our country’s history and respect for our peace officers and the brotherhood they show each other. It is unfortunate that all news channels did not find this important enough to cover, CNN and MSNBC did. Tuesday night, Laura Ingraham on FOX did not bother.

Ironically, the radical groups that led the attack believed they were patriots when in reality, the officers who tried to hold them back were the patriots. Those who had adhered to the “big lie” of a president who would not concede that he lost in a legitimate election used his rhetoric as permission and provocation for violence. Reveling in the intense emotions of the mob he had assembled and was addressing, he directed them to the Capitol, knowing what he was saying was inciting them and what would happen — stopping the certification of the election results and fomenting a coup.

Evidence is coming to light that Trump appointees in the Pentagon caused the delay in National Guard deployment and Capitol and DC police leadership were not warned of Trump’s marching orders and underestimated the threat, leaving the rank and file to be outmanned and under-equipped. Inside sabotage added to the vulnerability of the Capitol defenders.

One officer, Eugene Goodman, alone in the hall leading to the Senate, faced advancing rioters and bravely led them away from the Senate chamber, where among those inside was the Vice President, who managed to narrowly escape the rioters who chanted “Hang Mike Pence”. Officer Goodman is a patriot.

Our founders were patriots. Yes, they did riot. They were insurrectionists. But they rebelled against the monarchy of King George. They defeated authoritarianism and set up a government which laid the plans that developed into our democratic republic and institutions that have stood ever since.

It makes no sense for those who attacked the Capitol to wear the uniform of George Washington’s army, as some did. The confederate flag does make sense because it does represent an enemy of the United States, an enemy of Abraham Lincoln and the unity he stood for.

Ceremony and tradition are part of what holds us together as a nation. The Congress went back to work immediately the night of the insurrection and completed the certification of the election. The inaugural ceremony was held on Jan. 20, with some changes but according to tradition. Past presidents joined President Biden that day in honoring the dead at Arlington cemetery. These ceremonies are important for continuity, healing, and unity. They are passed down from our patriotic history and solidify our trust and investment in the institutions of our government. Our national symbols and traditions should be seen as things we have in common and it is a shame when they are used to divide us.

Sung at Officer Sicknick’s memorial was the patriotic “America the Beautiful.” The lyrics were written by Katherine Lee Bates for a July 4, 1895, edition of her church periodical. She was inspired by the natural beauty of our country from a trip to Pikes Peak, but also by the history of sacrifice that had built the nation.

She seems to point out that our country is a work in progress and must be held together against the attacks of extreme reckless violence by rules and civility. The second verse goes “America, America, god mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.”

Officer Brian Sicknick has been laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery alongside his brothers and sisters whose patriotic sacrifices we remember via our timeless ceremonies and traditions.

They bring us together momentarily as we work on a more perfect union.

Patriotism is not in attacking our government and trying to destroy it, but in working constructively and through self-control to mend its flaws and ensure liberty through making, enforcing, and abiding by just laws.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comment to jdagostino@observertoday.com

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