On the first anniversary of the Capitol riot, Americans need to overcome their political divide and work toward creating a more inclusive future

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Rebekah Kim

Rioters invaded the Capitol building Jan. 6 in response to President Joe Biden’s victory during the 2020 election. With its one-year anniversary, Americans should reflect on this event and work toward eliminating party divisions.

Rida Zar

The word “anniversary” often has a positive connotation. Weddings, birthdays, the Fourth of July and several others represent the start of something meaningful and elicit joy in those who celebrate it. But as Jan 6. approached last week, and with it the first anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, I felt nothing but dread and bitterness. 

The rioters “were assaulting … the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed and shed blood to establish and defend,” vice president Kamala Harris said during her Jan 6. speech at the U.S. Capitol.

As Americans reflect on the chaos and destruction that ensued last year, acknowledging the damage that it caused and learning from it is crucial to eliminating the divide in our country.

Over 11 years ago, America suffered another act of terror as the twin towers crumbled down, taking nearly 3,000 lives with it. While I didn’t experience it myself, my parents, fairly new to the country, certainly did. 

Although living in California on the opposite side of the nation, they faced dirty looks, cruel slurs and undeniable discrimination as people searched for any source to blame for the devastating tragedy. 

As time passed, our country, while never forgetting, slowly recovered and learned to grow stronger as a united front. 

A mutual understanding and respect of each other creates a safe environment, but none of that occurred during the invasion. Considering that two-thirds of CBS poll voters believed the events to be a sign of increasing political violence rather than an isolated incident, Amiercans suspect even more drastic reactions like this in the future. 

The part I adore most about this country is the diversity in our communities. We all come from different backgrounds, but are all able to call this place home. When I think of events like this, and the potential to see more of them, it seems that conflict has trumped a culture of respect. 

Division even lies heavily within the voters of this country with 56% of Republican voters seeing the events of Jan. 6 as defending freedom while 85% of Democrats viewing it as an insurrection and attempt to overthrow the government. 

Oftentimes the two major political parties rest at opposing ends of an issue, but compromise, understanding and mutual respect for one another can allow Americans to move past these differences. The responsibility to effectively represent their people falls onto politicians, but if both refuse to coordinate, no progress will be made.

I worry that, if with time, we move past the invasion without properly addressing its ties to the worst part of human nature — mob mentality — it will become just another part of America’s long history. 

With 62% of the CBS voters expecting violence over losing in future presidential elections, there seems to be an overall lack of faith from Americans that due process will be respected. In a country that prides itself on its freedom and liberty, consent of the governed remains a key component in its identity. If this cannot be respected, the basic elements of what makes this country so great become tarnished. 

As I hope to pursue a career in politics, I place a significant amount of importance on politicians’ ability to create positive change. And while a democracy requires civil discourse to continue growing into a country that satisfies the needs of its people, if only banter follows, this becomes impossible. 

Regardless of party affiliations, violence to this extent should not — and cannot — be condoned if America seeks to move forward and improve its reputation. Storming a federal building does not represent patriotism in any way. 

The Capitol has been recognized as the “most recognized symbol of democratic government in the world,” according to the U.S. Senate. For a location with such sacred meaning to be defiled in such an undemocratic matter, a need for change arises. 

Our generation will make up the leaders of the future. But before that time arrives, I hope the current policymakers can finally move beyond their party extremes. 

The progress we make as a country depends on our willingness to, first, acknowledge the mistakes of our past, reflect on them and prevent them from occurring again. 

When another year passes and the time to think back on the events of Jan. 6 arrives, may we remember it as a catalyst for positive social change.