In 1976, I graduated from the University of Idaho and began a dream job working in Washington, D.C., for a U.S. Senator I deeply admired, Idaho’s own Frank Church. As a newbie in the office, I was stationed in the back room and assigned to read all incoming correspondence and disseminate it to the appropriate senior staffers. I found it fascinating to read these missives, and I learned a great deal about my home state in the process.
In addition to my desk job, I was often asked to give private tours of the U.S. Capitol to folks visiting the Senator’s office from Idaho. I enjoyed giving these tours as it afforded me an opportunity to share my love of our nation’s history, government, art, and architecture with fellow Idahoans.
After introducing myself to my tour group -- typically a family, or a high school class -- I would escort them to the subway that linked the Russell Senate Office Building with the Capitol. From the basement of the Capitol, we would take the elevator to the second floor and begin the tour. Like all tour guides, I worked from a script but, as an avid reader of Capitol lore, would enliven the tour with interesting tidbits I’d picked up along the way. For instance, if you look closely at the statute of Abraham Lincoln in Statuary Hall, you will see he has two left feet. The left-footed lathe was used for both shoes, and the sculptor accurately reflected that fact.
Often, other visitors to the Capitol “attached” themselves to my tours, following along at a respectful distance but close enough to hear every word. I considered that a compliment. Visitors to the Capitol unfailingly expressed a sense of awe for the majesty of the building. They spoke of their pride in this “temple of democracy.” During my time working for Senator Church, I gave dozens of tours and observed hundreds of tourists. I know what a normal tourist day at the Capitol looks like.
So, I was dismayed when I read a statement made by U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) shortly after the insurrection. He said: “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
No, sir, I would never think that.
A normal tourist visit does not involve a violent mob, brandishing weapons, rushing the building, climbing the walls, and breaking windows. Nor are Capitol security officers beaten and bloodied.
On a normal day, the House and Senate chambers are not overrun by crude thugs hunting for members of Congress, ransacking their desks and offices, and threatening to kill them. On a normal day, one would never see gallows, replete with noose, outside the building.
A normal tourist visit doesn’t terrorize lawmakers, their aides, and others in the building; it doesn’t leave a trail of grief, trauma, and fear in its wake.
And it doesn’t result in suicides. It doesn’t result in death.
It has been many years since I gave Capitol tours, but I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Capitol many times since, and I’ve noted that tours haven’t changed much over the years. The highlights are the same. The sense of awe remains.
But Mr. Clyde and his fellow Republicans would gaslight the nation and tell us that January 6, 2021, was just another day at the Capitol. They would have us believe that what we saw and heard that day was commonplace, par for the course. They ask us to disbelieve what we witnessed and credit their lies instead.
In doing this, Mr. Clyde and his ilk are the most loathsome of political creatures, traitors to the truth who blithely betray their oaths of office and break faith with our country. But make no mistake: January 6th was a hideous aberration, a nightmare we hope to never again experience. It was anything but normal.