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  • Jennifer Banwart

Reopen The Capital.

Last weekend, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with my family. I was appalled by what I saw. The streets were empty when we arrived at our hotel downtown, except for swarms of uniformed National Guard Personnel patrolling the area. After spending 25 years in the DC area, including a job on Capitol Hill, I could not figure out how to take our children to see the White House. The perimeter was so large, that we had to stop and ask a secret service agent through a wall where we could actually see the White House. In order to get an unobstructed view of the White House for a picture, we had to walk nearly 1/4 mile south - out on the Ellipse Lawn. We tried to bring food truck hot dogs to a shady bench on that same lawn after a day filled with walking the Mall, and were quickly scurried away by a Secret Service agent who said no more than, "We have stuff going on," as he followed closely behind us on his bicycle. The Capitol Building is still barricaded - even though it's been more than three months since 6 January. And, in order to get in and out of our hotel, we were required to show a keycard to a Capitol Policeman.


Something about all of this imagery sparked a visceral reaction in me, and, despite my usual level-headed and rational approach to politics, I was angry. I was angry because this is a scene straight out of Germany's past or China's present - but this does NOT happen in the United States. I was angry that my children and many other children will remember their Capital this way. I was angry because we are setting a different standard and privilege for the safety of our civil servants in Washington. I was angry because we are setting a new and unthinkable precedent for many citizens - we have cowered in a corner because of fear.


Some day, be it now or in the future, The Capital is going to have to reopen. History tells us it will likely be some period of time before the anger in this country will cease. Even when the violence does cease, there are still likely to be peaceful protests and occasional incidents. There will always be another difference of opinion, another incident, another reason to batten down the hatches. But, keeping our Capital closed sends a bad message to our children, a bad message to other civil servants putting their life on the line everyday to do their job, and a bad message to the world about our collective resilience. We've been through difficult periods many times before in the United States, but we have not responded in fear and retreat - we have stood tall, gathered our courage, and stared risk down as we charged forward. This is what we have always expected of our leaders, civil servants, service members, and their families. It is what we should expect of our leaders now. It is what makes this country great.


Reopen The Capital. It's possible.


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