ColumnsEditor's Notes

Editor’s Note: The Capitol Insurrection Was the Illogical Next Step

Where we go from here is yet to be seen

Like anyone with half a heart, brain and/or soul, I watched the events of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection unfold with a certain level of shock and disgust. Surprise, though? Not so much.

The next day, I saw people posting on social media about their inability to focus due to what they had seen on the previous day. I wondered why I was going about my day like any other. Should I feel guilty for these apathetic thoughts?

Then it slowly came to me. What I was feeling wasn’t apathy, it was relief. Throughout the entirety of 2020, and for quite some time before that, I was concerned with what violent response might follow the presidential election, especially if Joe Biden were to win.

Capitol insurrection
Tear gas is deployed to clear protesters from the inaugration scaffolding during the Capitol insurrection. (Photo by J.M. Giordano)

What we saw on that Wednesday was not the end of it by any means, in my opinion, but it wasn’t the worst-case scenario. Now, my point here is not to downplay the events; that shit was downright scary and right-wing extremists straight-up bludgeoned a cop to death only for their supporters to scoff and say it must have been Antifa. That should never be forgotten.

And that’s my point. Don’t forget it. Unsuccessful coups tend to be followed by successful ones, especially when they’re not taken seriously enough. Now is not the time to let bygones be bygones.

I’ve seen all sorts of conservative folks trying to unity plea their way out of responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6, but it can’t be that easy.

We’ve watched  folks getting pulled from their homes and arrested because they were dumb enough to live-stream their participation in an insurrection from their Facebook account, and like South End on a Saturday, not a mask in sight. (How you going to try to take down the government then think you can fly back home using your government name?)

But that’s the easy part. Next you need to go for the leaders who called for these actions. Here in North Carolina, that means Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina’s 11th district. This man was not in office for more than 72 hours before taking part in a coup. Between his election and his swearing-in ceremony, Cawthorn kept at it, telling a crowd of young people at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on Dec. 20 to “call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them, say … ‘If you don’t support election integrity I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn’s coming after you, everybody’s coming after you.’”

His supporters went after the people he wanted them to go after, and afterwards he tweeted that he was “heartbroken” over the death of a Capitol Police officer, denouncing the violence that he acted as a catalyst for.
This is not the time for unity with people like that, it’s a time to unify against them.

I do not doubt for a second that, come Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, there will be many more of these extremists hitting the streets of D.C. and towns and cities around the country looking to make one last desperate attempt to refuse the results of the election in a hissy fit of violence.

We can only hope that the movement has been slowed enough by the false start on Jan. 6 so there’s not enough momentum to even take their efforts seriously.

I know that may sound naïve, but the cracks have already begun to show.

What in December was a stupid but strong movement of serious people objecting to the election even when they knew they were wrong has now been splintered into three factions of conservatives: those who remain vigilant and dangerous, those who have backtracked and will do anything not to be lumped in with the first group, and those who are so far gone they’ve lost touch with reality.

In all honesty, it’s that last group that scares me the most at this point. These are the people who swear up and down that Antifa was behind the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection despite the fact that their brethren in D.C. left long, easy-to-follow trails tracing their own journeys of cognitive dissonance.

Looking back now, we were always headed here. From the moment in June 2015 when Trump stepped on that goddamn escalator to the applause of actors he had paid $50 a piece to cheer him on while he announced he would run for president, we were destined for this point.

It was a genius strategy, really, to build a base by scapegoating the one group that would be willing to hold him accountable. “Fake news” was an effective rallying cry as well as a strong protective shield against responsibility, and as it became stronger, folks hunkered down in their echo chambers and lost touch with reality for possibly the last time.

And that’s how you end up with folks streaming out of the Capitol like kids on a field trip, “Murder the Media” etched into a door next to them, not seeing a single thing wrong with what they were doing.

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Pro-Trump protesters overwhelmed police during the Capitol insurrection and killed one officer. (Photo by Raven Geary)

Nevermind the fact that inside the Capitol, a woman had been shot and killed by police for trying to climb into the Speaker’s lobby where members of Congress were sheltering. Forget that outside, officer Brian Sicknick was clinging to life after being hit over the head with a fire extinguisher then beaten further by Trump supporters. He would later die, as well.

Despite this and other incidents of violence that occurred that day and into the night, the mood there remained festive. When you purposefully make the truth your enemy, you can live in any fantasyland you like.

I just hope we don’t let them drag us into the rabbit hole with them. That’s not what unity looks like.

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