On the evening of Aug. 24, 1814—as part of what would come to be known as the War of 1812—British forces set fire to the U.S. Capitol, burning much of it to the ground. Ultimately, reconstruction of the buildings would take 12 years to complete but led to the breathtaking dome and surrounding structures with which we are now all familiar. That landmark has now stood for close to 200 years.
Since then, the U.S. Capitol has been attacked six additional times:
July 2, 1915 • A man protesting American involvement in World War I exploded three sticks of dynamite outside the Senate Chamber. There was significant damage but no serious injuries. Learn more.
March 1, 1954 • Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire from the visitors’ gallery onto 200 representatives in the House Chamber. Five members of Congress were wounded. Learn more.
March 1, 1971 • A violent anti-war group calling itself the “Weather Underground” exploded a bomb on the Senate side of the Capitol. The explosion caused extensive damage but no casualties. Learn more.
Nov. 7, 1983 • A group calling itself the “Armed Resistance Unit”—protesting U.S. military action in Grenada and Lebanon—detonated a bomb near the Senate Chamber. No one was injured. Learn more.
July 24, 1998 • A solitary gunman burst past a security checkpoint, ultimately killing two Capitol Police officers and wounding a bystander. The shooter was found mentally incompetent by the courts. Learn more.
Jan. 6, 2021 • A violent mob of hundreds—protesting the election defeat of President Donald Trump—breached the U.S. Capitol and occupied various parts for several hours. The siege led to five deaths, including one Capitol Police Officer. Learn more.
As an American, when I watched this month’s events, I found it reassuring to learn that our Capitol has withstood these attacks in the past. This brings to mind the quote—often attributed to Mark Twain,“History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
Though the events of Jan. 6 were unprecedented in their scale (outside of war), examining history reminds us that people, groups, and armies have tried and failed multiple times to disrupt our country by attacking this historic site. Each time, though damage was done, we have chosen to rebuild, stronger.
Much like our nation’s Capitol Building, our democracy is a beautiful, enduring creation that has withstood countless attacks and challenges over the centuries. And like the assaults on that historic site, these attacks cause damage; they create fractures in the ideals that we hold collectively dear. It is what we do to address this damage that tells the story of who we want to be as a society.
Now is the time to ask ourselves what we can do as an individual, as a family, and/or as a community member to strengthen our heritage and the legacy we have inherited. It is both a time to make our voices heard and a time to listen. It is a time to seek out multiple perspectives and ideas for changes and improvements. It is a time to contemplate, reflect, and heal, and a time to practice our initiative and take action.
The Art of Golden Joinery
Are you familiar with the ancient art of kintsugi? This Japanese craft takes broken pottery—such as cups, bowls, etc., and mends them with gold. The cracks, instead of being hidden are highlighted with gold dust to show respect for the history, the value, or even just the sentimental attachment to the object. The object is restored in order to show the beauty of a broken thing being made whole. The repaired piece may appear even more beautiful than the original, giving it a different look and a second life.
How can we use kintsugi as a model to examine the cracks created by the events of Jan. 6? What can we do to recover from this episode, while not attempting to hide that there has been damage done? My wish is that we use the art of golden joinery to repair what is broken in remembrance of what was and what can be.
Thrive During Uncertain Times
In the spirit of kintsugi, I offer to parents—and all citizens—the following suggestions:
Take the time to learn (from reputable sources) the details of what occurred in Washington, DC on Jan. 6. Grow your knowledge base. While you hold strong to your values, be open-minded to conflicting voices. Keep yourself informed about the challenges that our country is facing. Update your knowledge on a regular basis.
Choose to get more involved.
Make your voice heard. Become active in whatever communities with which you associate. Find ways to become involved in the causes that you support.
The physical damage to the Capital will be repaired in short order. It is important to repair your personal emotions as a result of the events of January 6. Golden Joinery is the framework upon which you might develop a plan to move forward still mindful of the importance of what occurred.
Part II will explore the specific SEL techniques that can be used in your plan to address the general goals outlined in this article.