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How do we find unity again in our nation?

Order has been returned to our Capitol, at least for now.

Wednesday’s siege ended with five deaths, significant property damage and mounting federal criminal charges that, for some, could reach the level of sedition. It also has hurt the dignity of America in the eyes of the world after images of these repugnant actions have been thrust around the globe.

Protesters can be seen scaling exterior walls of our Capitol, crashing through doors and glass windows, destroying federal property, storming through police lines and making a mockery of one of our nation’s most sacred and revered institutions. These criminal acts are both despicable and an embarrassment on the world stage.

Without question, those responsible for these actions must be held accountable and must be prosecuted swiftly to the fullest extent of the law. Then, if they are convicted, they must be sentenced harshly.

Beyond that though, there are many, many questions to be answered.

First in the long list is how could this have happened?

It has come to light that three days before the scheduled protest that turned into a dangerous, angry mob, the Capitol police had turned down offers from the Pentagon to provide National Guard manpower and then on Wednesday offers from the U.S. Justice Department for FBI agents.

Despite plenty of warnings of a possible insurrection and ample resources and time to prepare, the Capitol police planned only for a free-speech demonstration.

Still stinging from uproar over the violent response by law enforcement to protests last June near the White House, apparently officials became intent on avoiding any appearance that the federal government was deploying active duty or National Guard troops against Americans.

But preserving the peace and protecting the nation’s Capitol never should be viewed as working against Americans. Rather, this is working FOR Americans.

Now, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, chairman of the subcommittee that funds the Capitol police force, is launching an investigation into the agency’s “severe systemic failure in securing the building’s perimeter.”

Good! That investigation must be swift and far-reaching. Someone must answer for these errors in judgment and lack of effective planning to ensure that it never happens again.

Logistical concerns over planning, safety and security couldn’t come at a worse time as we approach the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in less than two weeks.

Security must be on high alert, and precautions must be taken to the fullest extent possible in order to ensure everyone’s safety — and without fear of how heavily armed military and security might appear.

And then, perhaps the largest and most difficult question is how do we move beyond this? As our nation continues to grow increasingly divided, somehow we must find unity. Many fingers point toward outgoing President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting the riots as he questioned the election’s validity. Indeed, Trump has questioned the election repeatedly. However, he now publicly has conceded and will exit office in a matter of days.

Beyond that, despite who or what drove this very sizable crowd, we must respect that all but very few came with the sole intent of raising questions and seeking answers about the presidential election and about the nation’s future. How can this concern be answered, not patronizingly, but sincerely, so that all of us, as a nation, may have confidence in our electoral system, the foundation of our democracy?

Further, despite the violence involving many, it must not be forgotten that not all who participated in the protests became violent. We are hopeful that any local residents and Ohioans who traveled to our nation’s capital in observance of their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble did just that. Over time, the investigation will yield those important answers. If there is someone who did not we will report that dutifully as we get it according to the process of the law and judicial process.

This is still America, and the right to gather peacefully and raise questions and concerns — including questions even about election outcomes and certification — always must be preserved.

It was 157 years ago when Abraham Lincoln stood not far to our east in a Gettysburg, Pa., field pondering serious questions about whether our then-fledgling nation, conceived in liberty, could long endure.

We should be proud that it has — but not without serious struggles.

Now, here we are again, often hearing similar questions about how long a democratic republic like our great nation can survive.

If it is to do so, we must find a way to unite and respect the freedoms and liberty upon which this nation was founded.

And now, we must look to our future, hopeful that our incoming president is up to the incredible task of reuniting this nation so that we may emerge from this dark day stronger.

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