It’s often said that memory is a fickle thing. Today, that fickleness has become a danger to the republic.

If you turned on any of the major news networks over the past week, with the possible exception of Fox News, you’d have seen wall-to-wall coverage of the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol building. What’s concerning about this is all the misplaced lamentations.

The travesty of the day was not the riot itself, though the assault was obviously horrific and a symbol of America’s democratic backsliding into an illiberal abyss. But the...

It’s often said that memory is a fickle thing. Today, that fickleness has become a danger to the republic.

If you turned on any of the major news networks over the past week, with the possible exception of Fox News, you’d have seen wall-to-wall coverage of the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol building. What’s concerning about this is all the misplaced lamentations.

The travesty of the day was not the riot itself, though the assault was obviously horrific and a symbol of America’s democratic backsliding into an illiberal abyss. But the rampage was never an actual existential threat to the United States government and calling the attack an “insurrection” isn’t accurate. The rioters could have theoretically derailed the certification of the election, precipitating a crisis, but the risk of that happening now seems very low. The certification continued in a matter of hours.

More than whether or not Donald Trump “incited” the attack, we ought to be concerned over his attempt to conduct a coup and Republicans’ abuse of the Electoral Count Act.

This is what Trump should have been impeached for. It’s Trump and Josh Hawley and the right-wing media personalities who spurred the rioters on, not the QAnon shaman, who truly ought to appall us.

There’s also the matter of how the attack changed the Capitol. People forget that the Capitol’s security was never meant to be as tight as the Pentagon’s, because it was intentionally designed that way. It was constructed on the premise that anyone ought to be able to access his elected representative to redress grievances.

Before the pandemic, the Hill reflected this. You could get a day pass and see the major political players in the most powerful country in human history in the corridors and cafeterias of the Capitol. You could find your representative, or at the very least set up a meeting with a staffer in his office, with relative ease. It’s a shame that we have lost this sense of openness over the last year. Continuing in this manner will give the rioters a win.

Moreover, progressives have done a great disservice to our collective memory of that day by conflating the commonsense election integrity legislation that passed in states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas, with the “big lie.” Voting access has never been easier in American history, and claiming that we’re witnessing a new “Jim Crow” is almost as deleterious to trust in our electoral process as the stolen election myth itself. The more significant threat to voting is the counting, not the casting.

One area where conservatives may have actually gotten it right is in regard to the treatment of the rioters. The sacking of the Capitol was a disgrace, and the domestic terrorists responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but no one should lose their civil liberties. Some of the rioters have been placed on the no-fly list or held in solitary confinement without being charged with a crime. Archliberal Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has spoken out against their treatment at the hands of authorities, and she’s right to do so. Even the most heinous criminal defendants should not be deprived of their constitutional rights. Civil libertarians and conservatives who have recently awakened to the FISA court’s abuses should stand with her.

January 6 was a tragedy, but we should not forget its lessons. And selective memory can be even more dangerous than absentmindedness. Hucksters and extremists on both sides will always attempt to toy with our consciousness and lie with impunity. But when armed with the facts, we can stand against their manipulations.