Members of Oregon's congressional delegation, contacted by the Pamplin Media Goup during the early hours of Wednesday's siege on the Capitol, expressed shock, sadness, confusion and even fright.
But far more than that, our elected officials expressed anger.
Anger that a violent mob of people would desecrate the Capitol in an effort to undo the will of the voters, and to use force and weaponry and the tactics of bullies to hand the election to the man who lost.
The second most prevalent emotion from our elected officials was profound gratitude that their staffs were safe. Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, many of the staff weren't in the building when the criminal mob began their destruction. But both Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Rep. Earl Blumenauer started conversations with Pamplin Media reporters by saying, "My staff is safe … our people are safe."
We in journalism often criticize elected officials but we are sometimes slow in praising the underpaid and poorly recognized staffs that make those offices work. The line between the Oregonian who votes, and the lawmaker who carries out the will of that voter, passes directly through the capable hands of staff — many of whom are Oregonians, and college students or interns.
We, too, are grateful to report that the delegation's staff is safe.
Amid the horrors of Wednesday's violence, the words we heard from local people continue to resonate.
A Portland-area rabbi told us that, in January, her congregation begins its annual reading of the Book of Exodus: the story of the civil disobedience of midwives who wouldn't commit murder, and the emergence of a liberation leader. But the anger and violence and vandalism on display Wednesday in Washington weren't that, she said, and shouldn't be confused with it.
A high school history teacher spoke with sadness, saying that America has made many mistakes over the centuries, some of them horrific, but we could always say we got this one thing right: the peaceful transition of power. "And now, I guess, we don't get to say that anymore."
A city councilor from Manzanita said the shift in political rhetoric, from compromise and cooperation to vitriol and violence, isn't just on display in Washington and Salem. "Even in small-town, rural Oregon, I'm surprised how much conversation is an attack."
A practicing Catholic said her first emotion was horror: Wednesday is the Epiphany, a Christian feast day. "That's when Christians traditionally bless their homes. And celebrate our Lord, right? And the people's house is in shambles and under siege! It's just so sad to me. That we could be in such a state of disarray! It's the siege of our house!"
Early Thursday morning, Congress fulfilled its duty and President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office within weeks. Oregon's delegation returned to the scene of the violence and did their job.
And Oregonians returned to their daily lives as well. A little shaken, some tell us. But undaunted.
Finally, to bring the whole horrific affair back to an Oregon angle, we are reminded that, when President Trump sent federalized law enforcement troops to Portland this summer, he authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison.
That would include the U.S. Capitol.
Let's hope this proves to be true.
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