What our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot 

What our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot 
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Three days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, my family — including three elementary and middle school students — discussed what happened, what everyone thought about it, and the conversations that had taken place in their online classrooms about the Capitol Hill riot.

As someone who worked in the Capitol for 11 years, I was glad to know that teachers brought up the topic and that students had a forum to express their thoughts and ask questions. There’s a varied level of interest and awareness among students, which left me thinking about the lessons and conversations we will continue to have. Among the topics that should be included in those conversations:

Be Prepared. One of the lessons of the Capitol Hill attack is that the Capitol Police were not prepared. Hundreds of Capitol Police officers acted heroically to protect members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff. But despite multiple threats and warnings, they failed to prepare for potential scenarios and did not coordinate with other law enforcement agencies in case additional help was needed. One officer died and many were injured when trying to do their job, protecting the Capitol Building. The Capitol Police chief and other leaders lost their jobs for their failure to prepare.


Words Matter. During the rally that morning, President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE told the crowd to “take back our country” and “fight like hell.” A congressman said: “Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, sweat, tears, and fortunes and sometimes their lives … Stop at the Capitol … Are you willing to do the same? … Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?” And the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiState sanctions Ukrainian billionaire over alleged corruption Newsmax adds Andrew Giuliani as a contributor Trump sued by Democrat over mob attack on Capitol MORE, told the crowd that “let’s have trial by combat” and that “every single thing that has been outlined for the plan today is perfectly legal … and perfectly appropriate.” It’s not surprising that the mob thought it was their legal right to invade and attack the Capitol. Words can have tragic consequences.

Misinformation is dangerous. My son’s 7th grade history class recently discussed the role of misinformation in society. The danger of the propaganda technique, “The Big Lie,” is well known to history. And now we have a tragic example of how misinformation is dangerous: The Big Election Lie. President Trump persuaded people to believe that the election was “stolen” from him; one way he did this was to repeat it over and over, saying things like “you know it’s true” and “we have proof” and “everybody knows it.” But facts are facts: Trump lost the election — by a lot; Joe Biden won the electoral college, 306-232, and won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes. The Trump campaign sued to challenge the election results but lost each time that federal and state courts heard the cases, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another policing injustice was revealed. After a year of high-profile deaths of unarmed Black men, it was striking to see the Capitol Police show a fairly permissive response to a white crowd. Where was the riot gear? Where was the challenge to lawless behavior? Where were the weapons? In his statement following the Capitol attack, President-elect BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE condemned the racial disparity that exists in policing. "No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn't have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol," he said. "We all know that's true, and it is unacceptable.” Fixing this double standard should be a priority for Biden when he takes office on Jan. 20.

There’s a right way to protest. I’m sure there were people at the Trump rally who were there to peacefully protest. But let’s be clear about what to call the people who stormed the Capitol: They were not protesters; they were criminals, a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. The Constitution ensures the right to peaceably assemble. Protesters march, sit-in, hold signs and chant slogans. They might even get arrested as part of a protest, but the key is that protesters are non-violent, no matter what you are protesting. Violence only serves to dilute the cause you are protesting. And for everyone’s safety, let us not protest at elected officials’ homes.

Haters gonna hate ... Some of the people who gathered in Washington for the Trump rally have a lot of hate — for the government, for immigrants, for persons of color, for Jewish people. Shockingly, some wore shirts supporting the Holocaust. Unfortunately, this hatred has been with our nation a long time. It can’t be shaken off; it must be stopped — and young people must get involved and be part of the solution.

Politics doesn’t have to be like this. Sometimes grownups accuse one another of “acting like a 2nd grader” which is meant to be an insult. But elected leaders can learn a lot from kids. Student governments are effective, without negative TV ads or hateful rhetoric. Congress and the White House ought to be respected but first need to act in a more respectable way. Bipartisanship is when Democrats and Republicans work together, and we need more of that. 

Your vote is your voice. When you turn 18, you should register to vote so you can be part of the political process and help to choose your elected leaders. While the 2020 presidential election was not really that close, elections are often decided by just a handful of votes. Most elected officials — Republicans and Democrats alike — want to do what’s best for their communities. The job of voters is to make sure they do.

Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied served as a congressional staffer for 11 years, including as chief of staff for Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.) and as legislative director for Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyDOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Government watchdog finds federal cybersecurity has 'regressed' in recent years Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation MORE (D-N.Y.). She founded Speak Up Advocacy, to help people advocate more effectively.