There are certain moments that simply cannot be adequately captured by a photograph, a visceral emotion that refuses to be confined within a rectangle and 2 dimensions. A sunset. A child's first smile. You, passed out on a bathroom floor your sophomore year in college which totally did not happen as far as anyone can prove.
What is going on in our nation's capital is one of those moments.
And I expect our national hangover is going to be a doozy.
As I was riding home on the Metro, excitedly flipping through the shots I'd taken to note which ones I'd like to use for this piece, I began going back and forth, looking for the ones I thought I had taken.
Oh, they were all there, the pictures I took were faithfully rendered to my phone's on-board memory, but much of the impact remained behind.
Or, I'm just making elaborate excuses for not being a very good photographer.
It also didn't help that there wasn't much to see other than fencing.
So. Much. Fencing.
I could not get close to anything. Pretty much the entire government complex, the whole mall, the Capitol, side buildings, roads, everything was fenced off.
We've all seen the media shots we've been provided, soldiers milling about the steps of the Capitol and the like. I'm going to show you the periphery, what regular people see, and try to give you some idea of the scale of what is going on, because it goes far beyond protecting a few buildings.
This is looking west towards the Washington Monument. I did not walk all the way to the Lincoln Memorial in part because so many side streets were fenced off (which you'll see in a moment) I wasn't even sure it was practical, but I understand the fencing went the length of the National Mall, about two-and-a-half miles in all.
This is looking the other way towards the Capitol building.
The scale of this fencing gets completely lost, even when you are there in person.
The fences were even doubled up like a prison. There were fences, and other fences on the other side of the road, going every which way, up and down and across the streets.
Fences upon fences.
There will not be any fool in a buffalo hat standing at the Speaker's lectern this week.
I had to stop walking towards the Capitol when I encountered this fencing blocking my path, with National Guard troops just beyond (and what I took to be a Russian woman presumably narrating the scene).
This is looking down that road. I have no idea where it ended and I was not about to try to find out. I overheard a visitor asking a cop the best way to get to Union Station from there. Normally the best way would be to keep going towards the Capitol building. The cop was telling him to go the other way which would have been a multi-mile detour.
This was pretty much as close as I was going to get to Capitol Hill.
Here is what the road closures looked like, Capitol to the right, and even this misses some.
I took the following photo from roughly that spot looking north up 3rd Street SW, the last true city street that runs in front of the Capitol building. (I stuck my phone through the fencing a bit to get a clear shot.) Were I able to walk up that street, and turn to my left, there would be a grassy area with the Capitol beyond that. That was where I was standing on January 6.
It's an armed encampment now, soldiers lining the perimeter.
You can see where I was standing here.
This is a longer shot of the last. DC bicycle cops (I believe) to the right and the National Guard to the left. Again, I was standing behind yet another fence here (captured in the cover shot of this piece) but had stuck my phone through the mesh.
By the way, if you are looking for fencing in the DC area, wait a few days. There should be some awesome deals on lightly used stock soon.
These guardsmen are not there to just direct traffic. They are armed. This was out in front of the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station.
Presumably those are M-16s. (M-4s I have since been informed.)
There were road barriers everywhere, of course.
Dump trucks were in common use as well.
After around an hour or so of staring through fences, I started to feel like I was at a zoo, getting to see exotic things I don't normally encounter during my day, housed in an unconvincing fabrication of their natural environment.
"Look, a functioning constitutional republic! Wow!"
Democracy in cages, if you will.
I've been giving those in charge the benefit of the doubt, arguing that what happened a couple weeks ago was inexcusable and no one wants a repeat of that, so better safe than sorry.
But this has been escalating for days, the most recent number upped by another 5,000 National Guard troops bringing the total to 25,000.
If they are trying to send a message, they are succeeding, I'm not sure it's the one they want, or if it is, if it's productive.
It's starting to feel not just wrong, but very wrong.