Footage, which can easily be found online, shows Babbit standing in a hallway right off the House floor with an American flag tied around her neck. The scene around her is chaotic. People are bumping into each other, yelling, trying to get through the door into the chamber. Suddenly, with no warning, there is gunfire. You hear a shot and Babbit falls. People in the hallway scream. The camera closes in on her face. Babbit looks stunned. She's staring straight ahead. You can see that she knows she's about to die, which she did.
So what can we learn from this? It's not enough to call it a tragedy. Imagine for a second learning that was your daughter. The last time you spoke to her, she was heading to Washington for a political rally. Now, she's dead. You'll never talk to her again. That's what we're watching, and we may be watching a lot more of it in the coming days.
Political violence begets political violence. That is an iron law. We have to be against that, no matter who commits the violence or under what pretext, no matter how many self-interested demagogues assure us the violence is justified or necessary. We have a duty to oppose all of this, not simply because political violence kills other people's children, but because in the end it doesn't work.
No good person will live a happier life because that woman was killed in the hallway of the Capitol today. So our only option, as a practical matter, is to fix what is causing this in the first place.
You may have nothing in common with the people on the other side of the country (increasingly, you probably don't), but you're stuck with them. The idea that groups of Americans will somehow break off into separate peaceful nations of like-minded citizens, is a fantasy. The two hemispheres of this country are inseparably intertwined, like conjoined twins. Neither can leave without killing the other. As horrifying as this moment is, we have no option but to make it better, to gut it out.
The second thing to consider, and it's related to the first, is why Ashli Babbit went to the rally in the first place. She bore no resemblance to the angry children we have seen wrecking our cities in recent months -- pasty, entitled nihilists dressed in black, setting fires and spray painting slogans on statues. She looked pretty much like everyone else.
So why was she there? We ought to think about that. If you want to fix it, you have to think about that.
The only reason this country is rich and successful is because for hundreds of years, we have enjoyed a stable political system. The only reason that system is stable is because it's a democracy, responsive to voters.
Democracy is a pressure relief valve. As long as people sincerely believe they can change things by voting, they stay calm. They don't burst into the House chamber. They talk and they organize and they vote. But the opposite is also true if people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, that voting is a charade, that the system is rigged and it's run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests. Then, God knows what could happen.
Actually, we do know what could happen, because it's happening right now. It's happened in countless other countries over countless centuries. And the cycle is always the same because human nature never changes.
"Listen to us!" scream the population.
"Shut up and do what you're told," say their leaders.
In the face of dissent, the first instinct of illegitimate leadership is to crack down on the population, but crackdowns never make it better. They always make the country more volatile and more dangerous. The people in charge rarely understand that. They don't want to, they don't care to learn or listen because all of this conversation is a referendum on them and their leadership. So they clamp down harder.
This is the Romanov program, and it ends badly every single time. But that doesn't mean they won't try it again. Of course they will, because it's their nature. It's how we got here in the first place.
Millions of Americans sincerely believe the last election was fake. You can dismiss them as crazy. You can call them conspiracy theorists. You can kick them off Twitter. But that won't change their minds. Rather than trying to change their minds, to convince them and reassure them that the system is real, that democracy works -- which you would do if you cared about the country or the people who live here -- our new leaders will try to silence them.
What happened Wednesday will be used by the people taking power to justify stripping you of the rights you were born with as an American: Your right to speak without being censored, your right to assemble, to not be spied upon, to make a living, and to defend your family.
These are the most basic and ancient freedoms that we have there. They're why we live here in the first place. They're why we're proud to be Americans. They're what make us different, and they're all now in peril.
When thousands of your countrymen storm the Capitol building, you don't have to like it. We don't. You can be horrified by the violence, and we are.
But if you don't bother to pause and learn a single thing from your citizens storming your Capitol building, then you're a fool, you lack wisdom and self-awareness, and you have no place running a country. We got to this sad, chaotic day for a reason.