As baby boomers, we have seen a lot. A lot that has thrilled us, a lot that has saddened us. In this essay for Boomer Voices, lawyer and novelist Mike Petrie reflects on how sad he is right now, sad and angry, after the attempted coup of January 6th.
The first time I ever visited Washington DC, I was as a youngish volunteer working for President Ronald Reagan’s reelection. The inspiring finale of my long flight from California was flying low in the night sky over the Jefferson Memorial and other monuments that were lit up in all their glory. My face was glued to the airplane window, watching as the plane descended and the illuminated monuments grew closer and larger.
The following morning, walking the National Mall, I was immediately overcome with an overwhelming sense of American pride. Touring our nation’s capital was nothing short of inspirational and working on the Republican presidential campaign (even in my extremely limited volunteer capacity) enormously exciting. Life-changingly inspirational, in fact. It launched the course over the following decade of my returning to school to earn a Juris Doctorate Degree, running for mayor of our little California town (I lost), and traveling to D.C. many more times as an attorney licensed to practice not only in California and New York, but in the D.C. Court of Appeals and even the United States Supreme Court.
My most recent trip to the District of Colombia, for some depositions, was in 2019. I took my entire family with me. It was my teenage kids’ first time in the capital and they, too, felt that huge sense of American pride. The revered buildings, the monuments, the memorials, all standing as cathedrals of our democracy. I’ve traveled in my lifetime to all fifty states, and the District of Colombia remains my most favorite city in all of America. No other place has filled me with so much pride in our nation.
So, it was with absolute horror on January 6th that I watched the live coverage of insurrection, of marauding hordes of rioters breaking into the Capitol building and marching aggressively through Statuary Hall where my family and I had stood in awe and reverence just a little over a year ago. I watched them break into the offices of our elected leaders. I watched the crazed angry crowds mocking our democracy and desecrating those revered testaments of our greatness. To me, it was an atrocity far greater than breaking into the Louvre and shredding the Mona Lisa, or smashing the Venus de Milo with a hammer. For this was not just an attack on our culture, it was an attack on our very democracy.
It saddened me, it filled me with disgust, it angered me, my fists clenched in outrage. I cried. I actually cried. If this is the current face of the GOP, it bears no resemblance to the Grand Old Party of yesteryear. Ronald Reagan is most assuredly rolling over in his grave at what has become of it.
As a baby boomer, there are four infamous dates that will forever be etched into my memory: JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963; the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995; the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; and the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Sure, there are others, but those are the biggies for me. As we forge forward in our next phase of this ongoing democracy, one can only hope and pray there will be nothing like them again.
Mike’s legal mystery thriller is “You’re the Only One I Can Trust: A Novel.”