Yesterday, January 6th, 2021 will undoubtedly go down in history as either one of America’s darkest days or as the precursor to the end of American Democracy.
Most Americans, including myself, having grown up here, have also grown accustomed to a cultural bubble from which we look out at the world with a kind of smugness. We may feel ourselves blessed, or we may believe we have an exceptionalism, but we’ve felt an immunity to the kinds of upheaval that we’ve witnessed in other countries and among other cultures.
That smugness is gone. The storming of the Capital will be indelibly etched on the minds of all of us who sat watching it in sickening horror and revulsion. For me, it echoed the feelings of helplessness and disbelief of 9-11.
Yesterday showed that some former-Americans, former brothers and sisters in a shared national family, have been radicalized into something else entirely. That horde has been fed on lies and conspiracy theories. They ingested and internalized them. And yesterday they received marching orders from the President of the United States himself, Donald J. Trump, to ”go to the Capital”. With a religious-military fidelity to his command, they acted to fight back and retake ”their country”. He told them weakness wouldn’t get the job done. They rewarded his belief in them with a ”righteous” show of force.
If you poke your head out of the American cultural bubble, and take off the nationalistic blinders, it is entirely predictable that yesterday’s insurrection was a possibility. We have all been too naive to think this couldn’t have happened here. We don’t build madrassas in the US. It turns out we didn’t need them. Rather, we have FOX, and OAN, twitter, and facebook.
Politicians obviously believe in the idea that they can say things to their followers that the followers will believe. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the politician himself believes it, only that it will be beneficial to the politician to get the follower to believe it.
When a politician preys upon a certain type of individual who may not be the most intellectual, or may not have learned critical thinking skills, or developed the power of healthy skepticism, the politician is treating that kind of follower like one does who trains an attack dog. The politician is conditioning and controlling the follower with the promise a certain type of reward in return for a predictable behavior and response.
Ideologues, demagogues, religious ”prophets”, and con-men have used these techniques to train and control their adherents and ”marks” for centuries. Rarely so in America.
The stormers of the Capital, came to Washington, DC at the behest of their leader, Donald Trump, to prevent the ”theft” of an election he has repeatedly claimed to have been ”stolen from him” and has told them was ”stolen from them”. Many came in para-military garb. Many came armed with weapons that included axe handles, hockey sticks, batons, pistols, and pipe bombs.
They came with flags bearing the name of their Leader, and with flags bearing the symbols of their political ideology. They came having been told they were the true Patriots and the true defenders of Freedom. They believe that about themselves. As all true-believers everywhere, they believe it enough to act on it. At the end of Trump’s speech in front of the White House, he gave the radicalized, weaponized, flag-waving mob the Capital as a target. And off they marched.
What the hell did we think was going to happen?
What the hell do we think will continue to happen over and over again if we allow Trump and all of his complicit conspirators who radicalized this horde and millions just like them all around the country, get away with it scot free?
The correct response can bring this nasty, horrible chapter to an end. My fear is that our leaders are too craven to give the correct response and that yesterday was only the first thread to pulled out of the fabric of our Democracy that will unravel the whole thing.
It’s too early to figure out if it’s the end or beginning, but I know the bubble of naivety has burst.