First they turned the Capitol blue. Then they turned it red.
As if 2020 had not been exhausting enough. I’m already tired of 2021. Between Tuesday night’s election, Wednesday’s riotous insurrection and the subsequent endless news cycle chronicling the fallout and pressure on the President, I feel like all we have done lately is watch TV while not quite being able to believe or process all we are seeing. One thing I am certain of. To those who say “This is not who we are;” it might not be who we want to be, but it’s what we have become of late.
I can’t help but to think of Mike Pence. He was hiding out in a bunker in the basement of the Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon, having been interrupted from the solemn process of reading the results of the Electoral College affirming Joe Biden’s perfectly legal election as the 46th President of the United States. Within minutes he’s swept away for his own safety, hiding from any angry mob, and likely fearing for his life and for the lives of his Congressional colleagues – some of whom he was with at the moment. It must have flashed even through his vapid, mannequin-like mind that he was being put in a position of potential assassination by the actions and incitement of the very mob boss next to whom he stood loyally for the last four years.
That’s how mobsters operate. They demand loyalty. They are incapable of empathy, mutuality, respect or reciprocity. The moment it comes to saving their own ass they will sell out, rat on, destroy and maybe even kill those who have been closest to them. Just ask (former) Attorney Generals Jeff Sessions and William Barr, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and a succession of yes men, toadies and former allies. And now Pence.
It started off as a glorious Wednesday. Two Senate runoffs in Georgia had gone as well as possible, thanks largely to the heroic, decade-long relentless voter registration efforts led by former Georgia legislator and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The statewide drive to mobilize the Black vote worked, helped, of course, by Trump’s own conspiratorial criminal incompetence (on a taped phone conversation) trying to threaten Georgia Republican officials, including the secretary of state, with prosecution if they did not “find 11,780 votes” and overturn his election day loss there. Trump then proved – as if it needed any affirmation – what a classless egomaniac he is by venting his frustration during a rambling, 90-minute talk to a bored crowd of Republican loyalists during an outdoor super-spreader event in North Georgia on election eve that was supposed to be a get-out-the-vote rally for the two Republican senate candidates.
During Wednesday’s disaster – the morning rally outside the White House and then the attack that afternoon on the Capitol Building as Congress was doing its constitutional duty – I kept thinking how white the mob was. We were watching white rage in action. And, as it turns out, we also saw white privilege in action. As they broke windows, ransacked offices, smashed doors, vandalized statues and occupied chambers, they got away with their attack without having to worry about arrest or police violence by the guards.
It’s a whole, long, complicated story that will take weeks and months to unravel how the pre-planned attack (it was all there to see on their websites) met with so little police resistance and how there was no planning by Capitol Hill police or the National Guard in anticipation of such a moment. Had this been a Black Lives Matter rally they would have been met with overwhelming force the moment they approached the outside perimeter of the Capitol Building. Instead, the armed mob sauntered in, took selfies with cops, and was escorted out as if they were a junior high school chorus on tour.
Get a hold of this image. A Black (Rev. Raphael Warnock) and a Jew (Jon Ossoff) get elected to the Senate from the heart of the American South. That same afternoon, a mob of white racist anti-Semites bearing Confederate flags, swastikas, “Camp Auschwitz” signs and tee shirts signaling “Six Million Jews Were Not Enough” assault the Capitol Building, knowing they had the full support of the Commander-in-Chief.
Stacey Abrams and an army of lawyers and activists turned Black rage into disciplined votes. It’s the same kind of laser focus on civil rights and voting rights that allowed Blacks and Jews to unite (for a while) in the 1960s and that turned the Senate and the Capitol blue this week. Contrast that with the violent, anarchist hate and rage that sought to destroy a sacred hall of law.
It takes nothing but destructive hatred to turn a place red. It takes discipline and focus to turn it blue.