Two Days of Infamy | Capitol riots
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Pearl Harbor was an attack on the US that's etched into infamy. Given the events in Brazil, we have a reminder that Jan 6 was such an affront.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 to be “a day of infamy.” That was two weeks before my fifth birthday.

January 6, 2021 was also a day of infamy. That was shortly after my 84th birthday, almost 80 years after the earlier one, which has long been known as Pearl Harbor Day.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese unleashed a surprise aerial attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The attack resulted in more than 3,400 U.S. military casualties and led to the U.S. Congress declaring war on Japan on December 8, starting the Pacific phase of World War II. The war in Europe had started two years earlier when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a direct threat to our nation.

The January 6 Insurrection was nowhere near as catastrophic in terms of casualties, but in many respects, it represented a far greater threat to our nation.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attempt by a foreign power to limit our military presence in the Pacific. That attempt failed, awakening the US to rethink isolationist policies that had limited our involvement in the war up to that point. As Isoroku Yamamoto,  Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and to fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Unlike Pearl Harbor, the threat on January 6 came from within our nation when a fanatical cabal of disgruntled citizens refused to accept the results of the 2020 election and organized an attack on the Capitol. The intent was to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden and to force Congress to overturn the election and retain Donald Trump as President. A secondary goal was to execute, or kidnap and imprison, leading members of Congress and the Vice President. If that effort had succeeded, it could have marked the end of our democratic government.

It was a close call, but the insurrection failed, and the will of the majority of voters was sustained. But unlike our victory over the Axis powers in WWII, the threat to our democracy remains. The efforts by Republicans to suppress and disenfranchise Democratic voters continue. The election in 2024 is crucial, but even if a Democrat wins a majority of voters, we must prepare to defend the Capitol to prevent another attempt by anti-democratic forces to overturn our government. The battle is not over.

We have never forgotten the attack on our forces at Pearl Harbor. January 6, 2021, should also be remembered as an ongoing threat to our nation.

Final thought: The chaos in Brazil at the moment suggests that January 6 will become a rallying point for anti-democratic cabals in other countries. Former president Jair Bolsonaro’s followers, unwilling to accept his defeat in the recent election, have attacked their Supreme Court, Congress, and the presidential palace.

Some people say that history doesn’t repeat, but that it rhymes. However, in this case, there is not just mimicry, there is historical plagiarism.

Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan College of Engineering, then pursued a career in electronic systems and software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two. You can contact him at

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...