We rightfully commemorate existential attacks on America – of course, the 9/11 national shock and trauma; and, many decades ago, December 7th, 1941, famously, the “day that will live in infamy.”
But January 6th 2021 stands alone as the unprecedented, violent internal assault on American democracy itself.
The attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as its cause (“The Big Lie”) and current fallout, must be marked annually with great study, understanding and commitment. We owe at least that to our young citizens who naturally do not have the personal context to fully appreciate what took place and how it could undermine American democracy for the foreseeable future.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi earlier this week set the right tone for such proposed annual observances:
“The commemoration will include a discussion among historians about the narrative of that day; an opportunity for Members to share their experiences and reflections from that day; and a prayerful vigil in the evening,”
Speaker Pelosi’s solemn observance of January 6th brings to mind how national media served the public interest in another time of U.S. national trauma, the Iran hostage crisis of 1981:
“The program had its beginnings on November 8, 1979, just four days after the Iran hostage crisis started…
‘The Iran Crisis—America Held Hostage: Day xxx where xxx represented each day Iranians held hostage the occupants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. ….a producer had the idea of displaying the number of days on ‘America Held Hostage’: Day 15, Day 50, Day 150, and so on… The show continued to run as Nightline after the hostages were freed,”
Daily reminders of January 6th may be too much to expect with today’s media, but surely an annual solemn observance is more than justified. The national long-term memory requires it.
My recent book for public relations students, “Global Public Relations in the Roiling Twenty-Twenties …” https://businessinsociety.net/ , offered this estimate of the gravity of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and its potential disastrous aftermath:
“At the outset of 2021 … rogue American citizens protested, many violently, the democratic transition of the U.S. government by attacking the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. … So, there is urgency here, and it may well be sustained. Truth and trust – the very foundation of a functioning society – have been undermined. Millions seem inoculated against facts. Historians and sociologists fear disinformation, distrust and tribalism may become a new- normal …
“Will we face a society where free speech/free press, and classic liberal democracy – or repressive autocracy – is dominant?”
Many other critical issues now face us – clearly, managing response to the global pandemic among them. But the January 6th attack on American democracy must be held top of mind.
This is “Never Forget History”.