On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session Wednesday to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. During this session, a protest headed by Trump supporters turned into a riot that resulted in a lockdown of the Capitol Building as rioters broke into the building. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS)
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session Wednesday to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. During this session, a protest headed by Trump supporters turned into a riot that resulted in a lockdown of the Capitol Building as rioters broke into the building.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS

Staff Editorial: This is not the America we learned about

Following riot at Capitol Building, Image staff reflects on what America has come to represent

January 7, 2021

America’s democracy was built on the principle of the people’s right to petition the government. However, this does not give citizens the right to respond unreasonably due to a result of the democratic process, especially when it is based on misinformation. 

Yesterday, the Capitol Building was forced into a lockdown as a result of a protest that turned into a deadly riot during a meeting of Congress to confirm the Electoral College’s vote for President.

Regardless of those actions, the Congress completed its work and Vice President Mike Pence made it official that President-elect Joe Biden won the election with 306 Electoral Votes to President Donald Trump’s 232.

Those who gathered in Washington D.C. for the Stop the Steal protest did so in an attempt to delay that certification process and show their support for Trump and dissatisfaction with the election results. 

Although those who gathered peacefully had every Constitutional right to do so, when speech or actions become threatening, they are no longer protected under the First Amendment. 

And when these actions are encouraged by political leaders, it presents a new problem in that the leaders of our country are not representing us in the way they were elected to do. Their job is to protect the people of America, not to encourage violence against it. 

Like so many across our country, Image staff members have some strong opinions regarding the events of Jan. 6 and what it means in terms of the future of our country.

To the people of the United States:

When our grandparents and great grandparents spoke up and organized, we were able to see a better nation. A nation in which people fought for fairness and a better life for those workers who come from abroad and those who were born here. They always recognized that with their collectivized voices, regardless of race, gender or class status, that they could stand up and make a change.

The terrorists you witnessed yesterday are not your friends. The tactics they used display utter incompetence at organizing and strategizing. Regardless of this, some of our voices are lost in the heat of the moment, with many rural workers supporting these acts of treason against the United States. Their true enemy is not the Liberals or the Democrats. The liberal workers’ problem is not the Republicans or the right-wing.

Both parties work to uphold the same systems that prevent our great farmers, machine workers and our once great garment unions who have fallen to the new cheap fast fashion industry, from organizing like they once did to earn the fair wage they deserve.

When we organize, we cannot be stopped.

It is time that, whether you are employed or unemployed, rich or poor, housed or unhoused, we stand up and demand mandatory COVID-19 related paid absence, regardless of where transmission occurred. It is time we stand up and demand our $2,000 stimulus check for each month since the last $600 check came through. It is time we demand that rent be canceled for all. It is time we fight for our workers at Amazon and make sure their legal right to unionize is upheld instead of busted. It is time to get rid of people in government such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who blocked our right to receiving our own tax money in form of a stimulus check.

Remember, President-elect Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, President Donald Trump and all the others who claim to have your back are instead working to uphold the systems of oppression against you. They will suppress your voice speaking up about police brutality. They will suppress your right to free speech and will encourage division amongst the working class to keep the population in order.

Disrupt this.

Not by arming yourselves and storming the capital in support of an imperialist government, but by forming unions and participating in a mass general strike.

Do not cower in fear from the politicians or the radical right-wing militias. Organize and mobilize because politicians do not create change. People do.

Even as a high school worker with a minimum wage job, you still have the voice and the power to be conscious of your class position in society and the ability to directly create change. – Sophia Scheller, 12

To say this is the new America is truly an embarrassment. We now stand in one of the most divided times of our country. We aren’t getting anywhere trashing our major cities. It doesn’t matter if your blue or red, it’s time for a change. It’s time for us to start truly becoming the United States of America. – Kevin Vera, 12

To our politicians:

Is this the future you want for our country? Why has it become common for armed protestors to storm buildings and why were they just allowed to walk into the Capitol Building? Why are you not treating these violent rioters the same way you treated the peaceful ones at Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests? The only difference is that these protestors are white.

Was it because last night’s rioters were the same people that voted you into office? Why are black protestors “thugs” and “criminals” but the violence at the Capitol last night was a protest? Where were the use of rubber bullets and tear gas at this demonstration when they were so liberally used at marches for BLM?

The future of this country is not going to be in your hands for much longer, so what is the legacy you want to leave behind? Do you want to set a precedent of violence and destruction or do you want to be remembered as the one who stood in the way of it?

Our government has become somewhat of a circus from the dancing monkeys on the Senate floor to the clown in charge and it is time to make a change. – Keira Coverdell, 10

It’s disappointing and terrifying that the kids of America have to watch the adults exhibit less maturity than all of us at once. This series of unprecedented, terrifying events is truly making history.

We are all experiencing it together, yet we have never been more divided. It is your job to provide us with the unbiased truth, yet it’s never been harder to find it. This is not the America we want to grow into and this is certainly not the America our parents hoped we would inherit either.

When we look back on this, what side of history do you want to be on? We shouldn’t have to text group chats and family members advising them to stay inside due to news of destruction running rampant in their state. This is a prime example of the people in power directly betraying everything on which our country was founded on.

Why when our citizens marched and protested for fundamental human rights, there were rubber bullets, helicopters and tear gas? Why were the events of Jan. 6 treated differently? This is not the country we grew up in. This is not the country we read about in history books and to see it falling apart in front of us is beyond disappointing.

We used to hear about the problems in other countries, but now we can only worry about the biggest issue happening right at home. We have been left to fix what the people in power ruined and left for us. This is something we could never have prepared for. We have to be adults for them.

It’s especially terrifying when we can’t trust what our leaders tell us. Finding facts is harder than ever before. Our president talks about the fear of treason and sedition, yet he exhibits it perfectly with little consequence. Even worse is that our country has been so desensitized to such violence and awful acts, that this is becoming normal and it’s not. This is not normal and it shouldn’t be. – Caoimhe Farris, 10

The United States is a democracy that is for the people, by the people and of the people. Objecting to election results, even after a mob stormed your workspace, is dangerous, stupid and alarming. Objecting after this fiasco goes against the very value of American democracy. Politicians have to remember where their loyalty stands. Their loyalty is to the United States and the will of the people, not their political party and a president who incites violence. – Vijay Viswanathan, 11

To Donald J. Trump: For months on end, you have been pushing the narrative that the election was stolen. Even months before the election, you claimed mail-in ballots would cause enough voter fraud to steal the election from you. So, you told your supporters to vote in-person.

Then, when the mail-in votes came in and showed that Biden won, you claimed again it was stolen, despite it making perfect sense that mail-ins would favor Biden, since you told your voters to not vote by mail.

For months on end, you have tweeted and tweeted, trying to actually steal an election. Even trying to bully an election official in Georgia to “find” enough votes for you to win. You held huge rallies, claimed that the people in Washington D.C. were crooked and evil, and then you claim surprise when your supporters attempt to take down the people you say are threatening our country.

When rioters are carrying your flag, screaming your words, and committing actions of violence in your name, take some responsibility. You told these people to “remain peaceful” but “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was your take on the Black Lives Matter protests. I guess the harshness of punishment depends not on the crime, but on how much the perpetrators worships you. – Jack Daws, 11

To Josh Hawley: You are an embarrassment to our state. Our parents may have voted you in, but our generation is kicking you out. Your misinformation, your encouragement of the riots at the Capitol, they show your true colors.

Do you not support the basic foundations of democracy? Do you not understand the deep and profound impact of your words and actions? Everything that you have done has been monitored ever since you were elected by the Missourian people, we trusted you and you have lost our trust. We don’t want you leading our state and don’t want you to have any part in our futures. – Morgan Vehige, 11

To our generation:

This is the America that we are living in right now, but this isn’t the way it should be. Why is a group of armed, angry, violent white people allowed to storm the capital of our country with nothing but strong emotions and incorrect information not met with the same force that protestors were during the Blake Lives Matter movement?

We are the next inheritors of this country, and if we continue in this path that we are currently going down, we are staring down the dark tunnel of the possible destruction of our democracy.

Additionally, why is this the most important thing on our feed while the world is burning up and there is still a global pandemic happening that will forever change the way we live? Is this the country that we want to live in, raise our children and grandchildren in? Think about it. – Cece Beckmann, 10

Under the circumstances of yesterday and the extreme divide in our country, it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and to seek the truth. We must go forward sharing undoubtedly correct information and make an effort to understand both sides of the political spectrum.

We cannot unite peacefully or even respectfully disagree when we lack reason with one another. The event that took place yesterday in our nation’s capital is not acceptable and should certainly not become our “new normal”.

We must ask ourselves how this tragedy occurred and why certain protesters felt justified in taking their protest to the extreme. Listen to what your side has to say. Listen to what the other side has to say. Pause and take the time to decipher whether the news you’re receiving on social media is accurate, especially before you repost. The future of our generation must be built on the foundation of truth in order to stand. – Caroline Black, 11

The reality is that this is America, this is the country we are living in right now, but it shouldn’t be. As children, we were taught that the United States was a country of peace and prosperity, but what we are seeing now is not a reflection of that.

We are seeing a nation divided, a nation misguided by politicians who spread the rhetoric of hate and division, perpetuating the narrative of the America we have come to know. But, the future belongs to us, the future of this country depends on our striving for the idea of America we were raised to know, the America of unity, a beacon of hope, liberty and justice for all.

If this generation wants to see the land of the free and the home of the brave, then we must stand up to crooked politicians who put the safety of our democracy at risk with their actions.

Politicians like Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, President Donald Trump and many others have made it clear they serve their own interests over the country, even when it comes to defending fair elections, a cornerstone of our democracy. How, then, do they remain with such intense support? How do they even inspire people to attack the center of our country’s democracy? The answer is misinformation.

Everyone takes in some amount of misinformation every day. For some, it even leads them to actions such as those displayed yesterday. If our generation wants to make a better America, we must not only hold politicians accountable for dangerous misinformation but also be vigilant about knowing the truth. We must learn how to fact-check, do research and weed out the constant flow of misinformation. – Jack Daws, 11

The role of young people has never been more crucial.

A pandemic is raging. A reckoning on racism is boiling over. Not to mention, for the first time in decades, voting procedures are being modified for the general public.

With the unfortunate events of Jan. 6 still flooding the news and continuing to cause chaos among political parties, and four Americans dead as a result of the protest, our world is drowning in so much sorrow and fear. We need to stand up and settle these disputes.

We cannot simply hope that things will go back to normal. We now have a chance to do things differently. To use our knowledge to steer our shared future toward meeting global goals. We are Americans, not savages. America is not just a country, it is a place where we have the opportunity to make our dreams come true. We are successful because of the hard work and creativity and enterprise of our people. – Hannah Fitts, 11

Our parents and teachers have been teaching us to behave in ways that reduce violence. They have taught us to be proud of our actions. They have told us to look for role models, to model our behavior after those we admire.

Yet, when our country is becoming more prone to violence, can we really look for role models in those we used to? The country that we are stepping into once we are adults is not one that we should be proud of, especially if the actions of the people living here continue to go in the same direction. – Samantha Haney, 9

This is not the America that we were taught to know and love. We are supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, not the land of destruction and the home of endless riots. We are taught from a young age, even in kindergarten, that things may not go our way and we have to be okay with that.

Now, we are not so naïve to believe that world peace is achievable and everyone will get along, but we absolutely believe that violence is the worst way to solve issues. Our generation has been to hell and back with a global pandemic and we can’t become tired after fighting that issue. We need to band together and raise our voices about this event, we are writing history with the things we say and do and the best way to go about it is to unify and protect our future. – Morgan Vehige, 11

A final thought: America is ours to change

Over the next four years, all of us will become voters and America’s future will truly be in our hands.  What we saw leading up to, during and after this election has made the idea of being the ones who will be the decision-makers become less and less appealing. 

But in the end, the future of America is in our hands and our history textbooks did not prepare us for stepping into the America we are watching right now. As we prepare to enter into the world of adulthood, it feels like we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s getting harder to tell if it’s the sun or a train. 

America is called the land of opportunity. Now, it seems like it will be up to younger generations to re-commit to ensuring that it remains that land of opportunity for all of us. The core fundamentals that our country was founded on have been buried under a layer of grime and dirt created by hatred and division. It is time we clear it off and create a better America for our children.

Social media makes it entirely too easy to fan the flames of this hatred and distrust. Too much misinformation and just plain inflammatory information are spread in an instant. People believe everything they read or see and then repost it, especially when it comes from or is about our leaders. Our generation is guilty of this as well. It’s up to us to refrain from spreading falsehoods by fact-checking before spreading information, especially through social media.

People will always have different beliefs. That is why we have a Bill of Rights. But we also must have civility and respect for one another. If our nation’s leaders will not demonstrate that, it’s up to us to make the changes we want to see.

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