SAN DIEGO — In turbulent waters, you need an anchor to keep you steady. Otherwise, you might toss consistency overboard, lose your moral compass, and find yourself adrift, guided only by ideology and expediency.

For me — the son of a retired police officer who spent 37 years protecting and serving people of all colors and backgrounds — that anchor is an all-consuming rage over dead cops, no matter who killed them.

At least two cops appear to have died as a result of what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol, which is now a crime scene. After being dispatched to the Capitol by President Donald Trump, hundreds of people broke off from a larger group of protesters and stormed the building.

The "Stop the Steal" gang was fueled by anger and entitlement. And some were ready to go to war. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the melee, said that the protesters "came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear — climbing gear! — explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats."

At least one law enforcement officer, 42-year-old Brian Sicknick, appears to have been fatally injured by the pro-Trump seditionists. Video shows the U.S. Capitol police officer being struck in the head by a fire extinguisher flung at him by one of the hoodlums. While Sicknick lies face down on the ground, photos show protesters jeering while they kick his motionless body and stab him with flag poles. To call it a scene out of the Third World would be unfair to the Third World.

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The officer died later that night from his injuries.

Another Capitol police officer, 51-year-old Howard "Howie" Liebengood, who was on duty during the riot, also died a few days after the riot, apparently by suicide.

A third officer caught on video — unidentified but bloody and appearing to be in his 20s or 30s — narrowly escaped death after being crushed between a door and a wave of pro-Trump protesters who chanted "Heave ho! Heave ho" while pushing their collective weight against him.

Meanwhile, a Washington D.C. police officer who responded to the riot was also assaulted by protesters, who — according to Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee — tried to take the officer's gun away and use it against him. In fact, Contee said, the crowd did succeed in stealing other pieces of the officer's gear.

So much for Blue Lives Matter, eh?

These so-called patriots are the same folks who dial up conservative radio shows and talk about how we have to "back the blue." According to the Associated Press, one of the protesters screamed at officers: "We backed you guys in the summer. When the whole country hated you, we had your back!"

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The blood of those in blue is on the hands of Trump and the rioters. But it is also on the hands of thick-headed conservative Republicans who now, after the fact, dishonor the memories of these officers by making excuses, deflecting criticism or engaging in a round of "whataboutism."

Embarrassed, they want to change the subject. What about the time you…?

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh insists liberals have a double standard about violent protests when Black Lives Matter is involved.

Those protests last summer also produced attacks on police — including four police officers who were shot in St. Louis, and federal officer David Patrick Underwood, who was killed while guarding the federal courthouse in Oakland.

Other conservatives are calling for healing. The Capitol riot made so many of their compadres look so bad that they're suddenly talking about unity and peace. Eager to escape accountability, the party that formerly claimed to support accountability is now pleading: Can't we all just get along?

No, we can't. There's a debt that needs settling on behalf of dead cops, and deeds that demand a reckoning. Otherwise, this thing that should never have happened will happen again.

"Where were you during the Black Lives Matter protests?" Trump supporters ask critics of the riot on social media.

The same place I am now, doing the same thing: condemning cop killers.

I'm not ready to make nice with bullies, traitors and thugs. Not by a long shot. And I'm sure many other Americans feel the same way.

Unity might never happen. Peace can wait. This is the time for justice.

And those rioters whose actions led to the death and injuries of police officers need to be brought to justice by being arrested, prosecuted and punished — severely.

Ruben Navarrette can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.

© 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group