• Nicole Orlofsky

GHS Students and Faculty Weigh in on Capitol Riots

Updated: Mar 4

Cover photo credit: Elizabeth Casolo

Many people would agree with the statement that nothing about 2020 was remotely normal. It seems as though the misfortune and uproar of 2020 have followed us into 2021. The events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 have left many people shocked and frustrated with the state of our country and its democracy. Some students at Greenwich High have a lot of thoughts on politics and world events, and, as teens, it’s important to have their voices heard, even though most teenagers can’t vote. Some students and teachers discussed their disappointment, anger and shock with the events that occurred at the Capitol.

On patriotism

There has been uproar over President Trump and his description of the Capitol rioters.

Before his Twitter was permanently suspended, Trump tweeted, “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

This statement has raised questions about the definition of patriotism in our country.

Angelina Park, a sophomore, believes that, “Patriotism doesn’t mean approving of everything your country does … It means loving your country which sometimes means being aware of its pitfalls and changing in order to evolve.” This sentiment was echoed by Michelle Ferrone, another sophomore, who stated there was “nothing ‘patriotic’ about the people who stormed the Capitol, and labeling them as such both undermines democracy and reinforces racism.”

On history

In 20 years, maybe our kids will ask us where we were when the Capitol was stormed, as this is certainly a historic moment for members of Gen Z. I reached out to some GHS teachers to get their thoughts on the events, as well as the events' historical implications.

Karen Boyea, the adviser for National History Club and a social studies teacher, expressed her shock, explaining the riots were a “deeply upsetting reminder that living in a democracy is a privilege that comes with responsibilities… we have a responsibility to be civically engaged, to understand our history and to remember the sacrifices of countless Americans who have fought to protect our nation.”

To learn our history is one thing, but to truly understand it and its effects are something else entirely.

Ian Tiedemann, the adviser for Model UN and a social studies teacher, stated how drastically things have changed, saying “No election in my lifetime, even the extremely contested 2000 campaign, has even hinted at the possibility of violence. A lot has changed since then. The US has weathered 9/11, two long-term military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Great Recession and now Covid-19.” He went on to say, “We have incorporated ever-more pervasive technology that has quickened the pace of every aspect of our lives … While information moves like lightning, critical thinking does not.”

Casey Adams, a sophomore, suggested that “this day represents a prominent landmark in U.S. history that will be taught in history books centuries from now.”

On polarization

Tiedemann also spoke on the political divide in our country, recognizing that “the news cycle is an exhausting, never-ending war of increasingly polarized ideologies.”

This sentiment is shared by Neal Schopick, a social studies teacher, who observed, “The divide in this country is now so large it is hard to talk about politics, as people don't know what to believe, and what not to.” However, he is hopeful that “these events will lead to our country getting back to debating real issues, instead of further dividing us.”

On democracy

Daniel Greenbaum, a junior, voiced his thoughts on the implications for our democracy: “It’s horrific and beyond what I ever thought could happen in our country… it’s a reminder that our democracy isn’t invincible and that we have to be conscious of who we put in office.”

On Trump

“These were domestic terrorists attempting a coup to overthrow our democracy, and encouraged to do so by Donald Trump,” said Lara Olmsted, a freshman. She described it as a “disgusting reflection of the current state of America,” and said, “If these people hadn’t been white, there would be hundreds more dead.” Olmsted concluded, “Make no mistake: this was an attack against our democracy that stemmed from white supremacy and hatred.”

Carolina Serrao, a sophomore, said, “I’m disgusted not only by the actions of the pro-Trump rioters… but also by Trump’s failure to condemn their actions… he reassured the rioters… that he loved them and once again spread false information about the election.”

On the election

Dafina Bajra, a sophomore, believes that “these actions were incited by President Trump, who has continued to claim victory and election fraud since Joe Biden was declared President-elect,” and that “Trump encouraged these people by feeding into the cult-like obsession of his supporters.”

Mollee Ye, a sophomore, said, “This year the supporters of the president have decided to try to overturn a democratic vote, and it's not unreasonable to assume this may happen again. Personally, I find them delusional, trying to find any scrap of anything, from rumors of mass fraud to foreign fears, to support their narrow worldview.” Ye continued, “Now the country is forced to confront some weaknesses in its system,” but she is hopeful that “some good comes out of these events.”

On misinformation and trust

Aaron Hull, a We the People High School Constitutional Competition coach and a teacher, responded to Wednesday’s events with an examination of tensions in our society, as well as a look at the proliferation of media bias.

He voiced his pain in seeing how “social media became an unintended weapon for the spread of our worst instincts,” and how “this has amplified our challenge of how to find the truth.” He explained that “with so much lack of trust in institutions, it has become difficult to find accurate information, especially in the media.” He hopes more people will “seek multiple perspectives on the news they consume.” He concluded by saying, “When we silo ourselves in media that reflects our desired outcomes, then we become vulnerable to the types of misinformation that led to Wednesday's tragic attack that left five dead.”

On the reaction

Of the students interviewed, several shared a common sentiment. Marcus Mann, a junior, clarified his feelings with one word, simply stating, “shocking.”