Students, teachers share their thoughts on takeover of the Capitol

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Bipartisanship is dividing American citizens and is America’s greatest threat.

Purbalite Staff

Students and teachers reacted in shock to the attack on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, and wondered how long it would take for the country to recover.

Social studies teacher Doug Graff said he followed the situation as it occurred

“My friend who lives in D.C. called me and told me what was happening,” Graff said. “As I watched the events unfold, I was flabbergasted, shocked and really could not wrap my head around what I was watching.”

Senior Kurt Schemm also watched coverage of the Capitol attack as it happened.

“I was sitting at my desk at home listening to CNN when they switched from the debates going on in the Capitol to the events transpiring outside of it. I was immediately shocked, disappointed, and ashamed,” he said. 

It is essential in a democracy for presidents who lose elections to concede, Schemm said, and Trump’s refusal to do so has damaged the country.

“Refusing to concede an election with no evidence of widespread fraud was shameful and embarrassing,” he said.

Senior Layne Dunsey said the Capitol attack was a humiliation for the nation.

“The fact that this was encouraged by Donald Trump, and allowed by D.C. police, shows how dangerous these Trumpists can be,” Dunsey said. “We need our country’s leaders to finally put their foot down and end, without question, Trump’s reign.” 

Senior Connor Woods said America is a better place than Wednesday’s actions indicated.

“I feel like this will ultimately unite the country. What we saw yesterday wasn’t the United States of America that we are all a part of,” Woods said. “True Americans would not tear down democracy.”

Junior Izzy Acquaro feels that Trump supporters took the president’s words too seriously.

“This matter yesterday shouldn’t have happened, because regardless, it will not make any change,” Acquaro said.

“The last time the U.S. Capitol was attacked was during the War of 1812.”

— Natalie Grattan

Given the day’s stunning actions, teachers Katie Temme and Natalie Grattan quickly decided to combine their senior social studies classes today to talk about the Capitol breach.

They walked the classes through a timeline of the day’s events, starting with Trump’s speech at his “Save America” rally and the march, to the scaling of walls and breaking of windows at the Capitol, through the evacuation of Congress, and then finally to the reactions of both Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.

They also touched upon some images that came out of the day, including the Confederate flag being flown inside the Capitol for the first time ever — in front of a portrait of Charles Sumner, a famous antislavery senator at the time of the Civil War.

In an interview later in the day, Grattan provided historical perspective on the attack on the Capitol.

“The last time the U.S. Capitol was attacked was during the War of 1812,” she said. “The British invaded Washington, D.C., and were able to breach and burn down the U.S. Capitol building. Famously during this attack, First Lady Dolly Madison … saved the presidential portrait of George Washington, which is in the Smithsonian today. It took five years for the Capitol to be rebuilt into the building we know today.”

Many people wondered how Wednesday’s rioters were able to break into the Capitol so easily.

This is the most confounding question of the entire day for me,” Temme said. “I think there will be lengthy investigations into the lack of preparedness and who was at fault.”

Schemm said the lack of security was inexcusable.

“If you ask me, the Capitol should have been a fortress after Trump vowed to march with his mob down the National Mall,” Schemm said.

There are still moderate and conservative Democrats who will not go along with everything that progressives like Bernie Sanders want to do.”

— Katie Temme

Some Democratic leaders have called for another impeachment trial, or for the use of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Dunsey agreed, saying that Trump’s actions Wednesday are grounds for removal, as it is unsure if he is capable of worse in his short time remaining in office. 

Temme, though, said the 25th Amendment seemed like a long shot.

“You need the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment,” Temme said. “I find this unlikely.”

Before the attack on the Capitol, the big political news of the day was that Georgia had elected two Democratic senators, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

Senior Brina Davic said the Senate runoff victories will significantly help the Biden administration and the Democratic Party.

“I was honestly surprised that both Democrats won, given that Georgia has been a primarily strong red state for decades,” Davic said. “I think this win is foreshadowing of a shifting balance that will continue for Democrats and progressives, and it’s exciting to see some new and young faces in politics.”

But Temme wonders whether Georgia truly has become a Democratic state, or if Democrats won this time because of anti-Trump sentiment.

I’m interested to see what happens in Georgia politics post-Trump,”  she said. “He was at the top of the ticket in 2020 — is he the reason Georgia went blue, or is Georgia really blue?

Senior Juliana Fedorko said that Wednesday’s Capitol attack would win Democrats more support nationally.

“The attack of the Capitol and Trump’s inability to properly condemn the actions surely made the Democratic Party seem more appealing to centrists and moderate Republicans who are losing faith in the right’s ability to govern,” Fedorko said. 

Temme said the Senate victories in Georgia were big for Democrats, but governing will not be as easy as some might believe.

Democrats will now have control of what comes before the Senate, but will not have the power to get everything passed. The Senate has complicated rules and there are still moderate and conservative Democrats who will not go along with everything that progressives like Bernie Sanders want to do,” she said.

The country is deeply divided. But can its political parties, and the country as a whole, find a way to come together?

Acquaro said Republicans are divided now, but will find reason to unite soon.

“The Republican party already is divided greatly, but no matter what, they will oppose Joe Biden in every way possible. It remains to be seen who will control the Republican party — whether it is the people loyal to Trump, or the moderate Republicans,” Acquaro said.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Wednesday’s Senate wins eventually could further divide the Democratic Party, as progressives could push for more legislative action than moderates would support.

This is the fear of many moderate Democrats,” Temme said. “Progressives may learn quickly, though, that actual legislating with most of the power — it’s too slim of a margin in the Senate to call it “full” control — of the federal government is harder than putting forth policies from the sidelines. This was the problem Obama and Congressional Democrats ran into trying to pass the Affordable Care Act.”

Graff said he is concerned about the huge divisions throughout the country, but hopes that human decency will unite citizens.

“We are so divided as a country and not just politically but economically, educationally, racially just to mention a few,” he said. “In order for America to move forward, all of us must treat one another with respect and dignity. Collectively, we all have the platform to raise our standard of human decency.”

Social studies teacher Chris Reilsono said he found hope for the future in classroom discussions throughout the day.

“Today we had one of  the most powerful and resonating discussions I have ever had the privilege to be a part of, as my classes of sophomores demonstrated their collective views and overall understanding of events through a forum of respect and civility.” Reilsono said.

Staff Writers Lindsay Bonetti, Colton Brain, Grace Hampton, Alli Schroeder, and Brooke Scanlon contributed to this report.