The anchorwoman on the cable news network I watched Wednesday night said the mob that forced its way into the Capitol marked the first time it had been breached since the War of 1812.
“That’s not true!” I said. “1954!”
Thankfully, someone was with me. I don’t like to talk to the television alone.
Early Thursday morning I read a nationally syndicated columnist that made the same sort of statement, as if the Capitol had not been under attack since the British.
On March 1, 1954, four Puerto Ricans entered the Capitol, and from the spectators’ gallery overlooking the House of Representatives, they started shooting with semi-automatic pistols. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag during the attack, and yelled “Viva Puerto Rico libre!” (Long live free Puerto Rico).
U.S. Rep. Alvin Bentley, a Republican representing Michigan, was shot in the chest. U.S. Rep. Clifford Davis, a Democrat representing Tennessee, whose district included Memphis, was shot in the leg. U.S. Rep. George Fallon, a Democrat representing Maryland was shot in the hip. U.S. Rep. Ben Jensen, a Republican representing Iowa, was shot in the back. U.S. Rep. Kenneth Roberts, a Democrat representing Alabama, was shot in the knee. All recovered from their wounds.
Congressional pages carried the wounded out of the chamber as police, visitors to the Capitol, and Congressional staff tried to capture the shooters before they could escape. U.S. Rep. James Van Zandt, a Republican who represented Pennsylvania, tackled and unarmed the attacker who did most of the shooting.
Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores Rodriguez, and Andres Figueroa Cordero, all members of the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico, were caught, tried, and convicted of attempted murder. The Nationalist Party stood for complete independence for Puerto Rico, which was given to the U.S. after the Spanish-American War. The Party argued that Spain had no right to cede Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the first place.
Lebrón was sent to federal prison in West Virginia. Miranda, who was the primary shooter, was sentenced to 85 years and sent to Alcatraz. Cordero was sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and Rodriguez was sent to Leavenworth, which is where Oscar Collazo also was incarcerated.
Collazo was a Puerto Rican Nationalist Party member, too, and with Griselio Torresola, he attempted to assassinate President Harry Truman in 1950. On Nov. 1 they attacked Blair House in Washington D.C., where the president was staying during White House renovations. Torresola was killed during the attack by White House Police officer Leslie Coffelt, who Torresola had mortally wounded. Three other officers and Collazo were wounded in the shootout that also involved a Secret Service agent. Truman, who was upstairs taking a nap, was unharmed, but he did get yelled at by the Secret Service when the gunfire woke him up and he went to the window, only in his underwear, and peeked out during the gunfight. They told him to get away from the window.
In true Truman form he kept all his appointments the rest of that day, and said a president has to expect such things. It was, after all, the second attempt on his life (he had received letters that were triggered to explode from Palestinian Zionist terrorists in 1947) and he said he had been shot at before by professionals, referring to Germans during World War I.
In 1951 Collazo was convicted of murder and attempted murder, and sentenced to death, but Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison in 1952. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter freed Collazo. He also freed the four who attacked the House of Representatives despite Puerto Rican Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo’s opposition. The Governor said the commutation of sentences would encourage terrorism. They all returned to Puerto Rico. Miranda lived the longest. He died just last year on March 2, at age 89.
According to David McCullough’s book “Truman,” published in 1992, Callazo was asked in prison why he targeted Truman, who was in favor of self-determination for Puerto Rico, and had appointed the first native Puerto Rican governor. Collazo said he didn’t have anything against Truman, but he was: “A symbol of the system. You don’t attack the man, you attack the system,” he said.
Well, that’s the logic of an unthinking person isn’t it? It’s the logic of Donald Trump, who incited and then praised that idiot mob Wednesday. He ran for president attacking our system of government. He’s spent four years attacking our system of government, and our establishments, because that’s the only thing he knows how to do. And, he has been throwing a tantrum since most of us in this country have rejected him, and are moving on despite his continued lies and attacks.
Clinical psychologist Albert J. Bernstein wrote in his book, “Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry,” that when you try to extinguish a tantrum by ignoring it, the first response you always get is called an extinction burst.
“People will do whatever it is you are trying to ignore louder, longer, and more enthusiastically,” he writes. “This might make you believe that ignoring them isn’t working, but what it actually means is that it is.”
It’s important to keep that in mind during these last days of Trump’s administration. It’s important to keep it in mind as others try to emulate him in the future.