Breaking Glass

The People’s Militia

The U.S. Capitol may be the most easily parodied symbol of America.  It is a gift to cartoonists, who can use the dome to symbolize graft, foolishness, hot air, scandal, self-seeking—everything, in fact, that can go wrong with a democratically elected legislature.  In the past few years, though, all that has changed utterly, and not, of course, because of any decline in the amount of foolishness spoken therein, but in the fact that the building stands at all.  These days, whenever I see the Capitol—and now I really do see it in ways I never have before—I know that I am looking at one of the most powerful lessons ever written on the nature of American government.  To see the Capitol is to see material proof that the American people came first, before the government, and before the nation itself.

It all comes down to a matter of 15 minutes.  Thanks to the commission that reported this past summer on the attacks of September 11, 2001, we now know much more about that day and, above all, about the epic of United Flight 93.  The story is familiar enough.  A group of vermin hijacked the aircraft, murdering some of the crew and passengers, and then directed the flight to Washington.  It is morally certain that their target was the Capitol, since the principal plot organizer has admitted as much.  Knowing roughly what the terrorists intended, the surviving passengers attacked...

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