Like many of you, I watched the events of this past Wednesday with unmitigated shock, horror, fear, and disgust. Armed terrorists – potentially with help from inside of the building – stormed the temple of our democracy. Spurred on by the words of a malignant, craven madman, they forced a massive lockdown of the building, came within feet of some of our most important leaders, and genuinely and truly sought the death of hundreds and a violent overthrow of our government. What happened on Wednesday is unfathomable. It should never happen again.
The political, legal, and financial reckoning of this event are just beginning, I fear. This was really a 9/11-like day, and it is exceptionally fortunate that only five died, including at least one brave police officer. Hopefully, this day will spurn the changes in our society and security that will ensure such madness never occurs again. Maybe it was like the poison needing to get expunged from the body.
I have had many thoughts as both a passionate American and an elected official, and I have been tweeting like crazy about it. I have some political thoughts – mainly that anyone who participated in this election fraud nonsense shares the blame – but that’s not what I want to talk about today. This is a mental health blog, after all, and I want to discuss the major mental health impacts of the event. To be clear, they are there. Participants and reporters and reporting PTSD-like symptoms:
Millions of Americans are more fearful than ever of what comes next.
Standard disclaimer: I’m not a therapist, just a guy with more experience than I care to think about at seeing them. But I do have some thoughts. The best way to get through this – the only way to get through this – is to try your best to change your perspective.
The day was filled with horror. It was also filled with unimaginable bravery. For example, take the good work of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman:
There’s a full video, but here’s what happens here is nothing short of life-saving. Officer Goodman is the only member the Capitol Police force present at 2:14pm. The direction he is looking leads towards the entrance of the U.S. Senate, where Senators still were, while police frantically tried to seal the doors to the Chamber. That happened at 2:15pm – meaning that Office Goodman is the only thing that stands between the mob and the Senate. Officer Goodman looks towards the Senate entrance and sees it is unguarded. So, he verbally engages with the mob, shoves one of them, and retreats…to his right. Dragging the mob away from the Senate, and potentially saving lives.
The entire wild video is here:
And this says nothing of the countless other people – ordinary citizens and elected officials – who rose about the call of duty. Like the quick-thinking aides who grabbed the electoral votes and made a run for it before the mob could get them. Like Congressman Andy Kim (D-NJ), who stopped to help officers clean up the debris. Or like Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO), who can be seen comforting Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA) in this now infamous picture:
Congressman Crow was prepared to fight off the terrorists…with his pen.
Now, let me be clear. This ain’t pollyannic. The day’s events were ugly. There must be justice before there can be unity. Our country faces dark days.
But I would encourage you to take a modified version of the Mr. Rogers approach to the day’s events when trying to process it. Mr. Rogers famously called for people to “look for the helpers.” Go beyond that. Look for the ordinary citizens who rose above the call of duty that day, who risked their lives to save others. Don’t look for those who sank beneath history. Look for those who rose to meet the moment. Evil may be loud. But there’s still more good than bad. Use that perspective to motivate you for the days ahead.