I am deeply saddened and disturbed by what’s happening right now. And while there’s a lot to say, the truth is that there’s nothing new I can say that will change anything. However, what’s happened this week affects all of us, and the experience is traumatizing.
For those of us who live or work in the District, the Capitol building is a part of our daily lives. Whether we work there ourselves, or pass it on our commute or on an ordinary trip to Target, or visit it with those visiting us, or take our children to it as a family activity, the Capitol building is a constant reminder to us all that we live in a place where government happens.
I’ve known loud and busy days at the Capitol, and I’ve known quiet and empty nights. I’ve seen crowds of protesters fighting for justice and crowds of people honoring great leaders who have lain in state. In its shadow, I’ve had the privilege to play softball with Congressional staffers and volunteer at festivals. I’ve even walked through the empty Capitol grounds on my way home after Nationals’ games. But most importantly, I’ve seen its light shining late at night, indicating that elected officials were still inside working for us. The Capitol sure is beautiful at night.
An Evening on the Capitol Grounds Back in College
But while I have many happy memories of passing by our Capitol building, the scene that I saw of the storming of the Capitol reminded me of a quieter night I spent there with a friend. It was over 20 years ago, before 9/11. I was in college. A very cute guy—and a sophomore to boot!—noticed that I was struggling in Roman art and architecture class, and he took me and another friend under his wing. With a critical test approaching, we stayed up all night, studied, and celebrated with a joy-ride around town.
Our joy-ride ended at the Capitol. My friend often visited buildings in DC to remind himself why he was studying the Classics. After all, Greek and Roman leaders and architects inspired the design of our government and its buildings. That night, we parked as close as we could get in front of the Capitol. We could barely see the details of the columns, and we sat in the car pointing out different parts of the building that were relevant to our test. It was quiet and late. No one was in sight.
Suddenly, several police cars surrounded us. They were loud; they were bright. The officers asked my friend to exit the car with his hands up. My friends and I stayed in the car, bewildered. What could they possibly want with our friend?
Well, my friend was of Palestinian descent. And they wanted to know why he was parked so close to the Capitol. And why he was looking at the building in that way. Then, they considered why he was with us, three white girls. We showed the officers our Roman art and architecture books, notes, and flashcards to prove we were together studying for our exam. We pleaded with them to let our friend go. After what seemed like a super unnecessary amount of time with questions and reviewing my friend’s driving record, the officers finally permitted him to return to the driver’s seat and drive away.
The Capitol Building is for All of Us
But I don’t have to tell DC Moms this story like it’s anything new. While it’s been 20 years since that incident, I’m sure that it’s not the last time someone was questioned about why they were near the Capitol. I’m also sure it’s not the first time either. This brings me to my point: the Capitol is a building for all of us. Not just some of us who look a certain way. The stark contrast between the lack of action taken by authorities this week versus the violent actions taken against Black Lives Matter protesters recently is disturbing. And the fact that elected officials still voted to overturn the election results in support of a president who incited a riot at the Capitol is telling that there’s a lot of work to do.
As a Classics student then, I learned about ancient leaders who incited riots and conspiracies for their own personal gain just like what we witnessed this week. And let me tell you, their stories did not end well. Many of their images were destroyed, and their memories were intentionally wiped out through damnatio memoriae. But my point is, they were ancient leaders and we should know better. This should not be happening today, in 2021. If anything, we should be stronger, smarter, and more empathetic towards each other in our modern world—in our modern America. And definitely not storming our Capitol which represents so much to so many Americans.
Until authorities take action against the rioters, we mothers in DC especially need to keep our children and families safe. If we watch the news with our children, we should talk about what’s going on. We should check on our neighbors and abide by curfew rules set by the Mayor to stay safe. We should be aware of the public emergency state that we’re currently in, and give ourselves grace and understanding that this is traumatizing. The next few weeks could get crazy. We need to take care of each other.
As Mothers, How Can We Help?
But we also need to think about what’s next. What can we do as mothers to combat this kind of behavior going forward? Yes, with our own kids, but also with our fellow Americans. I struggle with this as a busy, working, mother of two. Especially, during the pandemic. But throughout history, women have saved the day during extremely difficult times. And that’s where we are today. How can we as mothers strategically affect change now? By working together, being creative, and thinking like strong women—I think we can come up with something.
What ideas do you have? How can we work together as DMV moms to provoke change and protect our government in Washington, DC?