CNN Reporter and Kerry native Donie O'Sullivan reporting from the Capitol on Wednesday. CNN Screengrab
By Ray O'Hanlon
On 9/11 the world shuddered. That would be the world well disposed towards the United States of America.
It shuddered because for a while on that day it imagined a world without the United States of America.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the world shuddered again at the thought of there being no United States of America.
This time, the fear of such an unthinkable fact will not go away in a while. It might never go away.
As the day began, Congressman Brendan Boyle, a Democrat from Philadelphia and the son of a father from Donegal, readied himself to go into political battle on behalf of the voters of Pennsylvania and to argue against those who believed that the election of Joe Biden as the next president was somehow illegitimate.
Boyle is used to political battles. Along with House members and senators from both parties he was about to experience a battle of the more literal kind.
On his way to the Capitol, Boyle released a statement. It read: “When I take to the House floor and speak today, I will be doing so for the almost 7 million Pennsylvania voters who have already made their voices heard legally, constitutionally, and justly when they exercised their right to vote on November 3 – a right that a pack of shamelessly opportunistic and cynical lawmakers are baselessly trying to shred like party apparatchiks. I will not stand by silently as some Republicans try to turn the United States into Russia, China, North Korea or whatever authoritarian regime they aspire to emulate.”
Others were readying to not stand by idly, though with very different images on their minds.
As the assault on the Capitol began Boyle, his fellow legislators and Capitol staffers, would be ushered into safe and secure space by police.
The great space under the Capitol Dome was suddenly not safe at all as the attack on American democracy got underway in earnest.
As the day advanced, as the rioters advanced and the police retreated, America, the sane part of it, and the world, the sane part of it, looked on in horror.
As is typically the case in situations such as this, reporters found themselves in the front lines armed with the tools of their trade. Such tools are not designed for physical self defense.
One reporter whose work was seen around the world, Ireland included, was Donie O'Sullivan of CNN. He is from Kerry, so courage and spleen could be expected.
At one point, O'Sullivan told viewers of the abuse that police and press alike were having to take from rioters. Police officers were being called "traitors."
That might have been a relatively mild pejorative compared to what reporters were being called. After all, over the past four years, members of the Press have been described variously as "Enemies of the People," "Sickest of the Sick" and "Human Scum" by no less a personage than the President of the United States.
O'Sullivan took it in his stride, literally, as he walked the Capitol sward in the gloaming.
And as is invariably the case, there were Irish observers who could manage a note of levity even amid what was all too evident American Carnage.
Said one on Twitter: "CNN's Donie O'Sullivan strolling thru the rioters with the confidence of a man rared on batter burgers and black pudding knowing full well he could knock out at least 3 of them before he's overpowered."
On a day that will never be forgotten, the Capitol could have done with a division of Donies.
It is difficult to put in words where precisely America is at right now. Wednesday's attack on American democracy is unlikely to be a one-off. The nation is awash in guns and the mentally unhinged.
Perhaps it is best to borrow not from an Irishman, but an Englishman whose power with words is acknowledged the world over.
Charles Dickens wrote at the start of "A Tale of Two Cities"....."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."
Yeah, that just about says it for the United States of America on January 6, 2021, a day when over 3,800 Americans died from a virus virtually ignored by a desperate president and roughly the same number, perhaps more, acted as if infected from another kind of virus in a place once considered politically sacred.