A year ago today, far-right extremists attempted to overthrow our government in an attempted coup led by the former president of the United States.
As a former police officer with the Phoenix Police department, I can only imagine the horror felt by the Capitol police officers defending our democracy that day. Before joining the Phoenix P.D., I served my country in the Arizona Army national guard and later with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps. I believed in the rule of law and wanted to play a part in administering justice and helping to spread American values across the globe. But what I saw on January 6, with mobs threatening to execute the sitting Vice President, looked like something I’d only ever associated with third-world dictatorships in faraway places.
The events that unfolded on January 6 make clear that American democracy is under attack. To ignore or minimize the ongoing attack on our democratic institutions will most certainly destroy our country and our constitutional freedoms.
Conservative extremists have manifested their right-wing rhetoric into actual violence against the foundations of our democracy and those who defend it. Continued polarization leaves us vulnerable as a country to attacks that threaten our national security both from within and outside our borders.
To this day, foreign influences and followers of the former president have exploited the polarization in our country, radicalizing our fellow Americans and refusing to acknowledge the truth about who’s in charge in a democracy: the people.
Even after seeing the violence in the U.S. Capitol, Republicans across the country and especially here in Arizona marched forward in their efforts to undermine democracy and overturn the results of the last election. After initially defending the election process in November 2020, Attorney General Mark Brnovich sided with Republicans to persuade a judge to enforce subpoenas for the so-called audit that was designed to sow doubt in our elections and undermine the democratic process.
Republicans in the State Senate wasted at least $425,000 of taxpayer money in that months-long effort, and the total cost to Arizonans could be much higher. Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who attended the rally at the U.S. Capitol and was close to the steps where the mob stormed the building, now looks to control the levers of our democracy that administer our elections by running for secretary of state.
News reports link Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar to the planning of January 6, which both deny, and the two have only fanned the flames of division in our country over the last year.
Our country is on rocky ground, and the future of our society remains uncertain. If there is a bright spot, it’s that Arizonans can rely on U.S. Armed Forces veterans like Senator Mark Kelly and Congressman Ruben Gallego representing our state in the halls of Congress. Both were at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and both have called for a thorough investigation of the events leading up to that fateful afternoon.
America needs answers, and we need to hold those responsible fully accountable if we’re going to prevent another January 6. We’re counting on U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, and the commission tasked with investigating the insurrection. Many think we can never go back to the way things were before January 6, 2021. But if our leaders do their job, I believe we still have the power to reclaim our position as the world’s exemplar of democracy and the rule of law.
Signa Oliver is a former Phoenix police officer and a U.S. Army veteran. She currently serves on the board of VetsForward. You can follow her and VetsForward on Twitter at @Signalaw and @AZVetsForward.