In the wake of the violent assault which January 6, 2021 wrought in our United States, does anything beyond acute shock remain?
On the one hand, the divide we already knew as the “two Americas” is intensified. Those who are indirectly implicated by the acts of that day are largely stunned, if momentarily, huddled in regrouping retreat from their otherwise opposing friends on social media. Those who were represented politically by the “other” side are as vociferous as ever, some even emboldened.
But, what of their disparate arguments? Has anything about these changed?
I am a registered Independent. My Republican friends who have ventured into the arena of discussion seem unified in their intent to juxtapose the violent protests and looting of the past summer, largely represented – it is alleged – by the BLM and Antifa movements, against what has been termed the Capitol Insurrection.
But, can these be fairly compared?
What the two scenarios do share cannot be denied. Both drew throngs of people. Both were colored by passionate, emotionally driven behavior. Both resulted in the loss of life, and that at the hands of brutality.
But, what of the reasons? Can the behavior of mobbing humans ever be rationalized?
In both cases, we must give regard to motive. We must first reach some understanding of that which brought each about if we are ever to either define, defend or, ultimately, quell their destructive effects.
Initially, the spread of the coronavirus through communities largely poor or otherwise underprivileged impacted their cultural inclination to gather together. The killing of George Floyd by several law enforcement officers sparked a smoldering, long standing rage among those already prevented from taking to their own neighborhoods during this pandemic; in droves, the disenfranchised black and, further, Latino and LGBTQ communities rallied in defiance of this one, pivotal act of aggression against them which represented an endless number of such abuses. Backlash against being physically restrained took fuel from decades of societal suppression, yielding demonstrations in the streets of a scope rivaling those many of us witnessed during the Vietnam conflict.
Initially, those of either the same mind or who sympathized viewed these demonstrations as acceptable, even peaceful, several locales managing them without incident. But, when reports came down the pike that many had turned aggressive, destroying privately owned storefronts and damaging Federal buildings, those of opposing mind capitalized on the news and featured such footage repeatedly on choice broadcasts until the prevailing interpretation became one fraught with violence, looting and conflagration.
Rumors also entered the fray. The Black Lives Matter movement, dissenters argued, had its roots in aggressive social disruptors; further, subgroups like Antifa, deliberately radical but subversive, had taken cue to mobilize. Defenders of the protests blamed both for the unfolding violence. Those standing in accusation faulted certain politicians and the major news media.
As the Presidential election loomed, and in vivid contrast with the dark, fiery demonstrations, political rallies for Donald Trump increased in frequency and fervor. Those of the opposing party cited a noticeable absence of compliance with pandemic protocol, and worried about a massive surge in cases of the virus. Trumpers, in turn, looked at the demonstrators and called foul. The issue of masks vs no masks took to the mats; which side was more culpable in the coronavirus spread?
But, even as nothing would prove more persistent than Covid-19, the rift between those in favor of social equity and those loyal to Donald Trump widened. If subversion was the fuel, both Q Anon, a conspiracy-led fringe group, and the white supremacist Proud Boys were the armies flanking the President who, himself, would not publicly denounce them. What ensued would prove more pernicious than the now ubiquitous disease.
Many have appeared in print suggesting that the White House knew what was brewing in the pipeline. The demonstrating disenfranchised had made their point; the election results were proof enough. Oh, but wait; now, the validity of the entire vote was in question. Recounts were called, and completed; tabulations were made, round two. Results confirmed a new President had been elected. But, the division among the people had matured to grotesque proportions, leaving no American sure: had their votes meant anything, at all? Which President would be installed on January 20th, 2021? Up to and including the day Congress convened to certify, even the oldest among military veterans was experiencing PTSD in anticipation.
Nearly a week has passed, since the outcome of what began in the halls of the United States legislature and ended in terror. To compare anything which preceded the acts of that day to their ultimate effect on every person still capable of breath is to deny them utterly. Social unrest with historical precedent, however widespread, has its roots in legitimate protest; but, such action does not threaten the very foundation of the government of a civil society.
With the advent of the attack on our Capitol, we’ve moved far beyond the sake of argument. Winning the debate is futile. Our core beliefs about that which constitutes civilized behavior have been cut with shrapnel. Our confidence in the institution which governs our democratic process has been mortally wounded, first by poisonous propaganda and finally by a war waged between mere loyalty and that which is worthy of our trust.
If any common ground remains upon which to place our shaking feet, it is to be sought after with avowed focus and determined effort. Let us put aside grievance, accusation, grudge, and vilification, and put our precious energy into saving the nation into which we were born, bred, or brought. That which divides, conquers; we must be made whole, at last, while we can still call ourselves free.
© 1/10/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying in whole or part, including translation, permitted. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thank you for your respect of original written material.