The assault on the Capitol

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 7, 2021, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

I watched more continuous TV yesterday than on any day since 9/11. It was the second time in my life that I didn't recognize the nation that I've always lived in.

I'm often frustrated with America's inability to shake its original sin, the one where it declared that "all men are created equal," but didn't really mean it. It still doesn't really mean it. But it has been trying hard for almost 250 years to correct that, to varying degrees of success. It eventually relented and allowed women to vote, then Blacks and other minorities, though it regionally did its best to stifle that, and that practice continues today. Elections are the process by which we improve things. It's a slow process, but it has been consistent.

In November, we engaged in this process as we do every four years to elect a president. It was a little different this time in certain places, as the pandemic shifted voting to mail. I've been voting by mail for most of the last 30 years, so it's certainly not novel to me. When I lived in Washington state, I didn't even have to do anything other than get a driver's license. In those 30 years, I've only missed one election (in 2011 when I moved, and I missed voting on a local road tax that unfortunately failed due to the short-sightedness of other city residents). I take this civic duty very seriously.

The election was close in certain states, but it ultimately named Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Donald Trump mounted legal challenges, and he lost all of them, often in courts with judges that he appointed. His campaign continued to fabricate the lie that the election was "stolen," and the president himself went so far as to call the Georgia Secretary of State and suggest he "find" more votes. A relatively small number of congressional Republicans insist there was widespread fraud without evidence, too, despite the fact that it had been litigated, legitimately, in the courts, and now former members of the administration have declared publicly that the election was secure and fair. The outcome of the election, objectively, and without much need for critical thinking, is legitimate.

But Trump wasn't having it. He encouraged his fans (I'm not sure what to call them, but being particularly attached to any politician seems odd to me) to protest and riot, repeatedly, finally suggesting they march right up to the Capitol. Then when people asked him to make a statement to calm them down, he threw more gas on the fire, suggesting they were righteous in their pursuit (but don't hurt the police!).

It was disturbing to see a guy wrapped in a Trump flag taking selfies in the Senate president's chair, along with the countless other images made yesterday. Worse, it further demonstrated that there are two Americas, that our original sin is prevalent as ever. We just ended a year where we deeply understood the role that race plays in determining not only your fate, but the consequence of your actions. In Louisville, police emptied 32 bullets into the apartment of a woman, Breonna Taylor, in what might be charitably described as a botched raid in the wrong place by poorly trained officers. No one was truly held accountable for that. And yet, thousands of entitled white people broke into the Capitol, while both chambers were in session, seemingly without consequence. And for what? Because their guy fairly lost an election? The saddest part of this is that, like the morons they were, all they could do once inside was take self-incriminating selfies and post them on the Internet. They had no demands, or plan. They're just common criminals. The cowards were driven out and largely dispersed shortly after nightfall, and the Congress returned to finish its work.

Some members of Congress were clearly shaken by the incident, and realized that they had gone too far. Some reversed their position to object to the electoral count, which was little more than a symbolic time waster anyway. Those sticking to their position insisted that there were "irregularities" and acts by the states that were "unconstitutional," even though those issues had their days in court, and again, were struck down in part by appointees of the aggrieved president. The process worked as it has for hundreds of years. This year was no different.

The Internet has made the division more obvious than ever, as a small number of white people insist that there's a double standard: It's OK to endorse the Black Lives Matter movement, but not... whatever the MAGA people want. These moral equivalence arguments are the core issue that plagues us right now. Black and brown people do not enjoy the same safety and opportunity as white people, for complex reasons rooted in hundreds of years of systemic discrimination. We can observe this, objectively, in a hundred different ways. To draw some parallel between the a centuries-old struggle for civil rights and aggrieved white people butt-hurt about their candidate losing is wholly absurd.

At the end of the day, Joe Biden will still be president, and now he will have a congress to work with that is friendly to his agenda. In four years, Trump ruined the GOP's dominance. I'm not sure what they'll get done, but America has spoken up, and no amount of lies about the election will ever change that. Congress did its job, exercising the will of the people. It's time to move on.


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