Editorial: In no uncertain terms

What happened on Jan. 6 is almost unimaginable. Woefully unprepared, those tasked with protecting the nation’s Capitol building—and the people within—failed miserably. They left the door open, literally, and what ensued will not be forgotten anytime soon.

As rioters made their way to the Capitol steps, there was little to hold them back. Sections of 3-foot-high fencing, the kind you see at a county fair to partition amusement rides, were all that stood between police and protesters. Imagine spending more than $700 billion a year for defense yet being unable to protect the very symbol of democracy.

The following day, Jan. 7, the president of Iran said President Trump had “disgraced his country,” and offered the following: “What happened in the U.S. shows how fragile Western democracy is. Despite all their scientific and industrial achievements, we see a huge influence of populism. When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates troubles for the world.”

The actions taken last week, following years of divisive rhetoric, led to that moment and have sullied the image of America on the world’s stage. The images of windows being smashed and of Capitol police drawing weapons on their fellow Americans quickly traveled around the world and within hours were on the front pages of newspapers around the globe. It has also brought the leader-of-the-free-world position that we have held for decades into a place where it could be questioned, and with cause, by those in power in Iran.

Swift and decisive condemnation needs to follow these recent events and it must be made clear that this action is not only un-American but that it will not be tolerated in America.

Congress needs to take action against the president, as well as those leaders who further stoked the flames of insurrection. It must be done immediately, and punishment must reflect the full extent of the law.

Maine’s congressional delegation has been quick to condemn the violence. Independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree have gone further, calling for Trump’s removal from office before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The widening divide that has caused such distrust between people and party also has to be addressed in a systemic way. This chasm did not form overnight, and it will take work to narrow it, but it is imperative that it be brought under control.

America is strongest when its people come together. We saw that after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and, before that, during and after World War II. We need to focus on ideas and concepts that move us to a better future and leave behind the manipulative and divisive rhetoric that has clouded politics for far too long.

We are better than this, America, and it is time that we remember that.

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