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Lies and intolerance the root of D.C. attack

Guest Column

By Sen. Nate Libby

The events of Wednesday, Jan. 6, during which a mob of people violently stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., have rattled our country. Watching footage and reading accounts of what happened evokes a variety of emotions in people: Anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear. It has also led to a lot of questions, the biggest one being: How did all this happen?

The events of that day are unsettling and ugly. As investigations continue, we’re getting a more complete picture of exactly what happened in the Capitol. Details from the attack are revealing a more disturbing reality than what we initially saw from live footage.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 21, the City of Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Libby)

The people who stormed the Capitol Building did so because they were convinced a fair and open election was fraudulent. They were told this, over and over, despite multiple recounts and dozens of failed court cases. These people were so convinced of this lie, they decided their only course of action was to commit an act of insurrection. In the process, they destroyed property, terrorized everyday staff, and assaulted police. Five people have died as a result of this attack, including a Capitol Police officer.

Our country was built on the promise of free speech, fair elections and open government. The right to protest does not include smashing windows or beating police officers. The right to petition the government for change does not include forcefully taking over Senate and House chambers to halt the process of democracy. The right to question information does not include carving “murder the media” into the door of a federal building.

As we all try to process our own thoughts and feelings, various leaders have spoken up to offer words of wisdom and comfort. As strange as it might sound, the words of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have stuck with me. He shared a story of growing up in Austria after the end of World War II. His father and neighbors suffered greatly knowing what terrible things they’d been led into doing, one step at a time. Their guilt and shame pained them just as much as their shrapnel wounds. The former governor explained, “It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.”

Five families are now in mourning. Countless others are grappling with the fact that their spouse, parent, child, cousin, aunt or uncle is facing felony changes and the likelihood of years in prison. The foundations of our democracy were shaken and lives have been ruined – all because of lies and intolerance.

There is a way forward. Healing the deep divisions in our country will take time and serious effort. It will involve both holding accountable those who are responsible for the Capitol attack, and taking stock of our own lives to make sure we’re really listening to and respecting each other. I love Maine and I love our country. I know we are equal to this task, and that we can live up to the high ideals this nation was founded upon.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 21, which comprises the City of Lewiston.

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