Undependence II
©2021, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

January 6, 2021

Before starting work in earnest this morning, I hopped onto a group which shares once-popular but now lesser-known songs which is hosted by a Major Social Media Enterprise. January 6 is Epiphany, or Little Christmas, or the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Bucking the trend of those who start playing Christmas music well before the leaves have fallen, and especially radio stations which fall over each other trying to be the first to “flip” to an all-Jingle Bells and Happy Holidays format, only to forget that Christmas even existed on either the day after or, yikes, the day of, I play my selected Christmas music all the way through the Twelve Days. Then, I “put it away” until “The Season Comes ‘Round Again.”

For several years, I posted a link to that very song, “Til The Season Comes Round Again,” on January 6 on this aforementioned group. But this year, I just couldn’t do it—the previous Christmas was not a time for very many people to spend time with each other. Thank you, pandemic. So it not only didn’t seem appropriate, but hurtful to post a song with lyrics like “Let's lift our heads high / And be thankful we’re here / ‘Til this time next year”* when few were able to be “here.” I selected a different song to close out the season and figured that would be the most momentous event of the day.

And it was not.

Instead, early in the afternoon a group of individuals who thought that they could somehow change the Course of Human Events decided to storm the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC, to make the point that they were not pleased with the way the previous presidential election had turned out. I don’t need to go into further detail, as there was international coverage of this occurance. I would just like to note for the record that these individuals have in fact changed a few things although that won’t be apparent for a little while.

In April 2009, my wife and I decided to take our two kids down to Washington, via Philadelpia and other stops along the way. I had arranged via our Congressional Representatives’ office to obtain special passes which would allow entry into a public gallery in the House of Representatives chamber. We stopped to pick up these passes at the representative’s office in one of the several buildings which is near the Capitol Building. I don’t know whether the kids were more excited about this than I was. I had been to the Capitol and the White House and the Supreme Court before—courtesy of my parents—but I had never set foot in any of the House Office Buildings before. It was impressive. We could see into some of the outer offices, which had their doors open. There were items representing the districts which each House member, well, represented. It was like taking a tour around the country without leaving the building.

That wasn’t the main event, of course, but it almost felt like it. As I recall, there wasn’t much going on at the House of Representatives that day. The gallery wasn’t busy, but neither was the House floor. I’m not sure whether they were in recess or whether it was one of those many days in which business is, let us say, somewhat subdued. But the kids got to see an important piece of their government, even though it was mostly inaction as opposed to in action.

We were hardly the only tourists at the Capitol that day. From the late winter to the early summer, there were class trips galore. Our son was scheduled to go on his eighth grade visit to Washington the next Spring, in fact, but we wanted to go as a family first and travel at our own pace. Capitol Hill was not as packed as usually with teens and tweens, as an official government tour guide related to us. “You picked a good week to be here,” she said.

There might not be any more good weeks after what happened today.

The ease with which people who were there to protest and disrupt were able to breach the barriers which were erected around the Capitol will certainly be documented, discussed, reported on and thoroughly investigated. And then, what happened to protect Independence Hall and other places already will no doubt happen in Washington. No more bus trips. No more passes to the House Gallery for mere ordinary citizens. Capitol Hill will be sealed up tighter than the drum that was beaten during battles for our American Independence. There will no longer be any taking chances, so everyone will be out of bounds and it will be Official Business Only at the House, the Senate and the Office Buildings, and probably a several block “secure perimeter” as well. The location where the march on the Capitol started, called “The Ellipse,” will probably also be placed permanently off-limits to anyone who doesn’t have a Legitimate Good Reason to be there. And “I just want to see it” will not be considered essential. Trust me on that, although I certainly hope I am wrong. I feel like I did back in the Second Grade, when the entire class was kept after school because one of us did something wrong. Yes, punishing everyone certainly is a deterrent. Not.

And this lockdown and lockout will have more far-reaching consequences than the resulting loss of tourism revenue in the District of Columbia and its environs. People who are told that they literally can not view their democracy at work will become less attached to it, less feeling that it works for them, notwithstanding those who already suspect that it doesn’t now. For some, today is therefore a double victory.

Not to me. I’m sad for my children, your children, their children, who will need to ask why that officer is carrying such a big gun and staring at us when we tried to walk closer to where the House and Senate and Supreme Court meet, and what all those big concrete barriers and high fences are there for, and why they can’t visit our nation’s capital with their class anymore.

That will not be the only result of this incident, of course. It's just the one that was top of my mind.

But yes, folks, you’ve changed things alright. Congratulations.

And Merry Christmas.

*"'Til The Season Comes 'Round Again," written by John Barlow Jarvis and Randy Goodrum.