Tripod Editorial: A National Disgrace and a Moment for Reflection

We bore witness today to a dark and troubling time, witnessing—as President Washington noted during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794—an act of insurgency which moves to “shake the government to its foundation.”

At that time, the nation’s moral compass was clear: the general populace, Washington wrote, consider the insurrection with “universal indignation and abhorrence.” By any measure, we, The Trinity Tripod, must condemn today in the same unequivocal terms of General Washington all those years ago the insurrection against our Capitol.

We saw today insurrection against our democratic system, against our way of life, and against all those who cherish the virtues of the Republic. It was nothing short of a national disgrace that contravenes the spirit of every man of goodwill and democratic principle.

There is no excuse for anarchy in a system that subscribes and principles the rule of law as a driving force for the preservation of life and the liberty. As Alexander Hamilton queried: “What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?” The answer: “An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last.”

Today we witnessed the desecration of the Constitution and of law, plain and simple. A document which men have fought and died for since our founding was dashed against the shoals and, for a moment this afternoon, some of us in this nation forgot about the inviolable ideal and the security democracy assures.

There is more to a people than politics just as there is more good will among the American people. We have been tried and tested before and will do so again. Throughout the annals of our history, there have been most moments of infamy and despair, of great national jubilation and victory.

Far be it from we humble students to impose our political will, but the question of whether today’s acts were justified in any measure can be expressed in no other terms than the most vigorous and staunch disagreement.

And so, we find ourselves at the bottom, the capstone of a virulent political epic, a people despaired and afraid. There is no political cause so great that can stand to justify that the Capitol bear witness to the fracture of democracy and the desecration of its halls.  

So where do we move from here? Surely not to swiftly apportion blame, sow doubt in the sanctity of our electoral system, encourage partisan strife, and continue on in our current fashion. A rallying cry of “Republicans are evil” or “BLM is to blame” moves us not one iota closer to preserving our democracy. A belief in the inherent flaws of the other side, in the political delusions of others, and the notion that some cannot be redeemed offers us nothing but a continuation of meaningless vitriol.

Congressional leaders, of both political persuasions, roundly condemned the events of today.  We are more, at heart, than the bare terms or abstractions of political beliefs. We are all members of that same tribe, united in our love of this country. In short, we are Americans and even in fear we shall stand together.

At heart, we are a people who believe in and possess goodwill. And that goodwill shall, in time, come to prevail against this moment. Though there may be tough days and contentious political moments ahead which will mar our faith, we must never forget that our faith in democracy shall prevail.

Tonight, tomorrow, or as time shall come to pass, the Electoral College’s votes shall be certified, a new President shall be inaugurated, a new Congress shall convene, and the functions of government shall soldier on.

Our Courts continue to function. Our markets shall open for business tomorrow—as they always do—and our government shall continue as it always has. Democracy is dead only when the people lose faith, and an insurrection is not enough to topple the principled resolve of a people.

Even as we view with despair and trepidation the events of today, we are apt to recall Hamilton’s observation that:

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

No one man, nor party, nor institution holds those sacred rights of mankind. They are not defined by a leader nor a political persuasion nor a government. They are part and parcel of our daily existence and they imbue each of us with the goodwill and the strength to persevere. Though we fear the gravitas of political uncertainty, our sacred rights remain. Though democracy is fragile, rights stand resilient.

Though our people are worried, we remain Americans, devoted to our democratic institutions.

Take note, for even in our collective moment of great trepidation, the American people shall remain resilient, goodwill shall prevail, and in due time we shall find our democracy emerge as a bulwark against the subjugated and oppressed once more.

-The Trinity Tripod

Correction: an earlier version of this article, published online on Jan. 6, incorrectly attributed the “sacred rights of mankind” quote to Thomas Jefferson. The quote was in fact originally stated by Alexander Hamilton in his article “The Farmer Refuted” in 1775.


Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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