No country can let insurrection go unpunished, and the consequence for attempting one must be Draconian.
The United States should heed that message in whatever it does to anarchists who invaded the Capitol Building on Wednesday.
Not that the country is treading on uncharted turf here. It screwed up its response to insurrection the last time it had to face one. “The War Between the States,” as some of my friends in the “Land of Cotton” call it, pitted the North against the South.
I have no plans to turn this essay into a history lesson. Instead, I intend to show the parallel between now and with what went sideways after the Yankees beat Johnny Reb in the 1860s.
The triumphant North let traitors weave seamlessly back into the mainstream.
The North did uproot slavery, but its victory never brought equality, which Blacks continue to chase 150-plus years later. To the victors go the spoils; to the losers, a trip to the gallows.
I doubt the hangman’s noose awaits any anarchist, but the men and women who ransacked the Capitol should face the sternest punishment the republic can mete. They cannot go free on misdemeanor charges for their participation in an insurrection.
Think back to what the “Chicago 7” faced when they staged protests outside the Democratic Party convention in 1968. In the main, these radicals on the left were demonstrating about the politics of the period and posed no threat to our seat of power.
We cannot say the same, however, about the radical rightists who were involved in what happened in Washington, D.C. Lives were lost in their attack on democracy, which is tragic.
No one wants to see death.
But the latter comes with insurrection, which must be crushed because it imperils our democracy. If death comes along with it, well … that is what happens to traitors: They die.
Or they must face a sort of reckoning.
Their treason must never be treated as casually as we do a trespass or a simple assault. Treason is neither of these.
We are a nation built on protest, and the right to demonstrate is built into our Constitution. What is not part of these inalienable rights is insurrection. We can never let those bent on criticizing our republic overthrow it.
Law and order must reign, even amid protest.
Anarchy cannot find a foothold.
Neither can insurrection.
Nor can tyranny.
The ballot beats the bullet – or so it must be.
Dissent and hellraising will remain in a patriot’s toolbox. The Black Lives Matter movement illustrates that point.
Protests are not always built on majorities; they are built around sound causes and around determined leadership. Those who held the Capitol hostage had the latter, not the former.
The price the insurgents pay now must be steep. For our republic to survive, its leaders must insist that no one pulls a loose thread that might unspool it. Those who do otherwise must face a darker punishment than Southerners who waged a Civil War.
Is a date with death too much?
Perhaps so, but a long stretch behind a prison wall should be a remedy we can agree on. In allowing treason to go unpunished, we encourage more actions like it, and the next one might prove more consequential to our republic.