Make no mistake, what happened yesterday is a reflection of the America we know. 

I was among the many who tweeted out an initial response after seeing the photos and videos of domestic terrorists storming into the Capitol building, hanging off the balcony of the Senate floor, traipsing through the hallowed halls waving confederate flags, and propping their feet up on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

My initial response? “What is happening? This is not the country I know.”

I’m ready to eat my words now. This is the country I know. 

While it is true, as Deseret News columnist Jay Evensen noted Wednesday, that there is no “doubt who was responsible for this sad moment in American history” (i.e. Donald Trump), yesterday’s mayhem was not truly an isolated event. Rather, it was a reflection of all that America is and has ever been — and I mean that in both a positive and negative light. 

The name might have us believe otherwise, but the United States of America are rarely wholly united. 

What happened at the U.S. Capitol? How the riot in Washington unfolded

At any given time, there are disputes among the states and the federal government about who really holds the power to make this or that decision, as well as division among the branches of government at every level. Among the communities that shape the nation there are differing beliefs and ideals that cause violence and small scale chaos on a daily basis — everything from crime statistics to the comparison of household income disparities in any given ZIP code can help shape that picture. Even determining what makes a person “American” is constantly in dispute. And, of course, protests, riots and terrorist attacks have all been unfortunate and recurring parts of our history.

It’s a rather bleak picture of the country I know and love, but with the good comes the bad.

What makes the United States “united” then? The one thing I can point to without hesitation is a belief in and hope for freedom through democracy. 

That one ideal, on its own, has been enough to bring this nation — disjointed as it may often be — through the trials of a revolutionary founding, a civil war, two world wars, countless domestic and foreign terror threats, an ongoing revolution for civil rights and, as Wednesday proved, through the process of determining its 46th president. 

What makes the United States ‘united’ then? The one thing I can point to without hesitation is a belief in and hope for freedom through democracy.

Yes, it’s true that the people who showed up at the Capitol did so in response to Trump’s incessant claims that the entire election process was handled fraudulently. It’s true that our very own 45th president rallied people to his selfish cause to stay in power and, yes, it’s true that their unprecedented attack on one of the nation’s oldest and most respected buildings marked an attempt to terrorize the entire democratic system of leaders therein represented. Both their actions and the latent responses from authorities in stopping or arresting them were terrible and unacceptable and represent some of the worst parts of our nation’s disjointed understanding of human decency. Yesterday cast a shadow on the nation’s pride.

But at the end of the day, the terrorists were pushed back. The Senate leaders continued their task of counting the electoral votes and, with the vast majority standing united, they certified results of the entire democratic election process. 

Hate and contempt do not reap love and kindness

A new day dawned and even President Trump came to accept his defeat, albeit begrudgingly.

Wednesday will long be remembered as a stain in our history, but it also reminded us that the light of the American ideals of equality, peace, freedom and justice can overcome the shadows of our darkest moments. 

America isn’t perfect and it isn’t always united, but as James Madison once said, “The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.”

With light comes shadows and with freedom comes sacrifice and, at the end of the day, America is still beautiful, flaws and all.