December 10, 2023

Chris Honoré

Capitol police grapple with insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. FBI photo
January 23, 2022

America: Who were we and what have we become? (Part one)

By Chris Honoré

Frequently I stop and wonder if something profound, something I don’t fully grasp, has happened to our nation.

I’ve always taken for granted our form of self-governance, believing that our Republic was, and always would be, resilient.

Chris Honoré

Of course, the tensions have always stemmed from our ideological differences, made manifest by our two-party system. Naturally, we debate, argue, protest — most especially before Americans go to the polls and let their preferences be known. We vote, and then gave little notice to those who won and those who lost, confident in what, I now realize, is an extraordinary and unique process: the peaceful transfer of power, that cornerstone upon which America has rested since its inception.

Never did I consider (perhaps naively) that our democracy was fragile. Never did I consider that, beyond our philosophical differences, there were those who would malevolently reject our fundamental principles. When the dialogue is stripped away, we all fundamentally believe in the common good, or in what has often been referred to (more frequently of late) this brilliantly codified “grand experiment.” Don’t we?

And then, breathtakingly, I watched the events of Jan. 6, 2021, unfold, and I realized that there are among us countless Americans who questioned the very tenets of our democracy, and, with an unexpected, surreal rage stormed our nation’s capital with the intent of not only blocking the certification of the most recent presidential election, but set about desecrating this historic symbol (one of the most beautiful buildings in our capital).

And so they did. They defecated in the hallways, urinated on the walls, rifled office desks, wandered the hallways with Confederate, “Don’t Tread on Me,” and MAGA flags. And with a stunning, murderous violence, they fought pitched battles with the capitol police — those men and women charged with its defense.

Their purpose was to deny any semblance of the aforementioned peaceful transfer of power; rather, in essence, theirs was a premeditated coup. No matter that their candidate lost one of the most scrutinized and fair elections in our history.

But nevertheless, the mob that surrounded and invaded the Capitol building, even constructed a gallows — well, they believed without question in what has became known as “The Big Lie”: the election was stolen, rigged, hence the persistent, bumper sticker chant, “Stop The Steal,” mixed with the chilling, “Hang Mike Pence,” and “Where is Nancy Pelosi?”

Who are these people? I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly. How many Americans truly believe, contrary to all the evidence, that the election was a fraud? Or actually question the legitimacy of Joe Biden as our elected president? Their numbers remain, at least to me, a concerning mystery. The Jan. 6 Commission is revealing that the Capitol insurrection was planned and financed and supported by a small cabal of high-placed officials, to include legislators, who, while they did not actually join the post-incitement mob, they were, and still remain, committed to its outcome. Which is what? To burn down our democracy? 

Part two to follow. 

Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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