Boomer Voices: Sad and Angry at the same time

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.

Mike Petrie and his wife at the Capitol.

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.

United States Capitol. Photo by Mike Petrie.

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.

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Mike’s legal mystery thriller is “You’re the Only One I Can Trust: A Novel.”

13 Comments

  1. Mike, my first visit to D.C. was as a student in 1973. I was in awe then and on subsequent visits of the majesty of the city and our democracy, as well. On my next visit, I was with a visiting French student. She was also impressed with our capital. Last Wednesday I was thoroughly disgusted by the attack on our cathedral of democracy by a vicious mob incited by a president who took a sacred oath to protect us and our constitution. My friends in Australia said they were horrified by the riot and by Trump who held an office that in their words “was once considered to be a lofty position.” God help us all and President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration. We all have so much hard work ahead of us to heal our divided and pandemic-ridden nation.

  2. I have been all over the Capitol during 30 years in DC. I have always been impressed with the grandeur of the building and a sense of respect for history as I walked the halls. I have friends married to Capitol Policeman, former House and Senate staffers. I’ve even been in the Speaker’s office back when Tom Foley was Speaker. It is unimaginable that this mob would think this is the way democracy works. I hope this is the last we’ve seen of this kind of behavior, but I fear it is not. Trump tapped into dangerous fringe elements and gave them legitimacy. I hope our nation comes back to the center and condemns the lunatic fringe. Best way to cure this is vote out those of either party who fail to support and defend the Constitution.

  3. I was horrified watching the events on January 6, 2020. I also shed a tear watching TV. I still can’t believe so many people still stand behind Trump with all of his self serving actions and lies over the last 5 years. I am certain that history will show that Trump was the worst US president ever. As a recovering Republican, I hope we can all have the same goal to protect our democracy and uphold our Constitution.

  4. You are an excellent writer, Mike Petrie! Yes, this could be the saddest time in American history, but politicians from both political parties are culpable — not just in Washington DC last week, but also in major cities across the United States last summer. No matter what political party you identify with, our “leaders” are failing the American people and the media and social media are only fanning the flames. Freedom isn’t free, and it’s time for the American people and it’s elected officials to wake up!

  5. Well said. I had the same feelings , anger and tears. Was truly a sad day. One that will be etched into us for a very long time

  6. Thanks for stating so well and sharing. I can only hope your voice helps more people transfer allegiance from a demagogue back to democracy and the good of the country.

  7. Well done. I especially appreciated your perspective from different times, and how those experiences shaped your life. I have only been to Washington D.C. once, during my high school years. It was powerful and humbling. Witnessing the turmoil last week, was surreal to me. How could this ever happen, in our country? I feel like I am suffering from PTSD. Our nation will heal, but not until we admit our mistakes, take responsibility for them and vow to never let this ever happen again.

  8. Mike,
    It could not have been better said. I have been to DC several times and experienced the same feelings of awe and pride. I look forward to a time when our paths cross again.

  9. Well said Mr. Petrie. I hope all Americans sitting at home and seeing that happen to our Capitol will take note that words make a difference and words of our Commander in Chief should unit us, not divide us and not fall into the shaft of non-science and false accusations against our democracy.

  10. I have to agree with you, Mr. Petrie. I’m ashamed that a small contingent of the protest thought it was necessary to use violence, although “insurrection” or “coup” are too strong of terms for it in my humble opinion. You don’t attempt a coup with, at last count, about 2 or 3 hundred rioters armed with cell phones that actually entered the building, breaking the law. They are, quite rightly, being tracked down, arrested and charged. The Feds have retracted their statement that rioters intended to “capture and assassinate elected officials” as there is no proof. While there was damage, no fires was set, no Molotov cocktails ignited and thrown. I really don’t believe they had a coherent goal in mind other than to disrupt the count and be rowdy. They didn’t go there capable of and intending to replace the elected government, which is the goal of any actual coup. I’ve seen no videos of anyone brandishing a weapon, nor official charges of such, just media claims. Had they been armed, I think some idiot would have fired a shot into the air and the police would have responded, to the sorrow of all. Trump did (and should not have) raise the temperature with his speech, but that’s politics and constitutionally protected speech; happens on both sides. (Dershowitz and other constitutional law scholars have stated that his speech did not meet the Supreme Court definition of “incitement”.) Cruz and Pelosi are equally guilty when it comes to political hand-wringing. I’m so tired of it, I changed my political affiliation from Republican to Libertarian several months ago.

  11. Well said. It is not the party of Reagan or Lincoln. And the toll it has taken on our nation is cataclysmic. Let us hope and pray that it will bring our congress to begin healing the nation by working together.

  12. Well said Mike. My son reminded me today to love our enemies. This can be especially hard though when we feel our most treasured values are under attack.

    Maybe it helps to acknowledge that both sides are experiencing the same feeling.
    I’m hoping time will help clear the view for all of us. Especially after the trials are over and we can all see who were the main groups here and what really motivated them to do these acts. Perhaps then we can finally agree on some facts and do some soul searching. One thing I know … my son is right here, and it’s the only way to begin to heal.

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