“To be honest, I did not recognize my fellow citizens assaulting the Capitol, or the United States they claimed to represent.”

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell wiped tears away as he offered the leadoff testimony Tuesday before the House select committee that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put together to examine the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Gonell is a naturalized U.S. citizen who idolized the country that he came to as a child from the Dominican Republic, and which he served in combat with distinction for 545 days in Iraq.

“On January 6, for the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than my entire deployment to Iraq,” Gonell said, as he described being called a traitor, being accused of choosing his paycheck over his oath to the Constitution, of hearing threats not only to his own life but also to those of Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Republicans have continued their whitewash of what happened that day, and their refusal to acknowledge the moral rot of the self-proclaimed “patriots” who attacked the Capitol. Those rioters were there at the instigation of President Donald Trump, who had convinced them that violence was a means by which they could overturn the result of a fairly decided presidential election. Even now, polls indicate that a quarter of Republicans approve of the rioters’ actions.

In Trump’s twisted version of that shameful day, this deadly mob was a “loving crowd,” who were “hugging and kissing the police and the guards.” Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) compared the scene of the insurrectionists breaching the building with a “normal tourist visit.”

If deflection were an Olympic sport, the gold medal would surely go to House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who claimed shortly before the hearing began Tuesday that it is Pelosi who “bears responsibility” for what happened on Jan. 6.

Republicans are branding the select committee and its badly needed inquiry into the events of Jan. 6 as a partisan exercise.

If that’s what this process is, though, they are the ones to blame. They rejected a proposal to appoint an independent commission, modeled on the panel that looked into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Given an opportunity to appoint five members to the select committee, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) attempted to stack it with bombastic stuntmen such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — a gambit that Pelosi wisely blocked.

Despite this gamesmanship on the part of Republicans, when four officers who put their lives on the line that day gave their testimony Tuesday, it had a power that transcended politics.

Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who is Black, described how, for the first time in his life, he was called the most unconscionable of racial slurs while in uniform — and he didn’t blunt the impact of that word by using a euphemism.

D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges recounted his “perpetual confusion” at seeing rioters carrying the “thin blue line” flags that supposedly signal their support for law enforcement, even as they assaulted him and crushed him in a doorway, jeering at him that he would die on his knees.

This is the truth of what happened that day — and the truth about the people who carried out what has rightfully been called an insurrection and an assault on this country’s democratic system.

“What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened," said D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten unconscious and later learned he had had a heart attack on Jan. 6. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

In seeking to rectify this indifference — and the cultish denialism of Republicans — the select committee set about its work on precisely the right note. Continuing on this high road will be difficult in this hyperpartisan environment, especially when the inquiry reaches the point when subpoenas will be necessary. Targets are sure to include Republican leader McCarthy, whose testimony about his reportedly angry call with Trump that day will be crucial, and top officials of the Trump White House.

But proceed they must. It is the very least they — and we — owe to the four brave men who testified on Tuesday, and the rule of law they represent.

Read More: