John Colson: Was Jan. 6 just a warm-up action?
Hit & Run
Last week we saw democracy in action at its best, and at its worst, and it is likely we are going to see a repeat performance of the “worst” before too long.
On Wednesday, on the same day that Georgia voters elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate for the first time in nearly three decades, putting Democrats narrowly in charge of the levers of power in Washington, D.C., a mob of angry President Donald J. Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol building and wreaked mayhem.
Some were armed with guns and knives, some wielded whatever bludgeon they could lay their hands on (such as a fire extinguisher that reportedly was used to club a cop to death), some were reduced to smearing feces in the shape of boot prints up and down the Capitol hallways.
Some called out for certain politicians — Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were named specifically — with veiled threats of physical violence.
Some broke into certain offices. Pelosi’s office was one, and the guy who sat at her desk reportedly claimed he was pushed through the door while searching for a bathroom. Perhaps, but then maybe he was the one who, when he couldn’t find a toilet, decided to do his business in the hallway, walk through it and track it all over the place. Who knows?
They bloodied cops, built a makeshift gallows on the Capitol grounds, battered the doors of the Senate and the House, and sent legislators scuttling into the shadows in fear.
Whatever heinous acts they committed, they basically were intent on creating chaos sufficient to stop the U.S. Congress from doing its job: the counting of Electoral College ballots and officially turning the executive branch of government over to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The insurrectionists idea was, plainly put, to reverse the outcome of the November national elections, though the effort was doomed to failure before it got started.
To me, that day’s happenings are nothing if not examples of a “coup” and “domestic terrorism.”
Some right-wing fantasists have argued that the uprising in Washington on Jan. 6 was nothing more than angry citizens exercising their free-speech rights.
In fact, the Pentagon has gone so far (probably under orders from the White House) as to put a positive-spinning moniker to the insurrection and violence of that day, calling it a “First Amendment Protest” instead of what it was — a deliberate effort to overturn an election, and thus take over our government, by leaving Trump in charge.
Now, imagine how things might have gone if, say, the protesters had been members of Black Lives Matter. Let’s say the BLM organizers let it be known for weeks in advance that they would be showing up in D.C., on a certain day, and that they intended to thwart the legal workings of government through mass action, just as the insurrectionists did.
We do, of course, have comparisons between the BLM protests in Washington and other places last summer, which often were met by police violence and hostility, versus the “Hey, buddy” treatment that greeted some of the rioters Jan. 6.
I’d say the different treatment amounts to proof that, if you’re a Black man or woman objecting to institutionalized racism in this country, you can expect to be beaten up, jailed and prosecuted for exercising your right to free speech.
But, if you’re white and backed by Trump, you can expect smiles and polite behavior from some cops, at least until you start acting up — at that point, even friendly cops will pull out the nightsticks and chemical sprays.
Very few were arrested in Washington that day, though a report Monday indicated that more than 90 of the “free-speech protesters” were in police custody, many of them arrested after they stupidly threw selfies and statements up onto social media pages.
A friend of mine referred to them as “Duck Dynasty characters, but pissed off and on steroids,” but I can’t help thinking it was more sinister than a bunch of dumb hicks hamming it up on TV.
The ploy did not work Jan. 6 — Congress completed the count of Electoral votes later that night, and Biden and Harris are to be sworn in Jan. 20.
But already, militia groups are organizing online to return to the national capital in force, perhaps Jan. 17 or Jan. 20, and disrupt things all over again.
Trump, of course, has been sidelined by the social media he had some to depend on, but he still may find a way to egg on his base.
And the unfortunate fact is that they may not need him, because the white resentment, racism and rage that has fueled Trump’s rise to power is still a fact of life in modern America, and was well established long before he took over the bully pulpit at the White House.
The rioters see politics as a game that is rigged against them, and since many popular video games some of these people might well have played involve bloody fighting, armed standoffs against enemies and other macho displays of angry strength, they may well see this kind of reaction to perceived harm as completely natural and OK.
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“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.