I watched the attack on the Capitol on January 6th with a mixture of horror, rage, and embarrassment. Horror that US citizens would invade a Federal building, threaten officials, and attempt to overthrow the oldest continual democracy in the world. Rage at the Confederate flag, the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, and the other paraphernalia that celebrates racism, anti-Semitism, ignorance, hatred, and failure. And embarrassment due to the current state of our country.
President Trump’s embrace of white supremacist values and terminology has led to an increase in the numbers, activities, confidence, and violence by these awful domestic terrorists. Those that have held elected office, served in the military, or worn police badges have earned the additional disreputable label of traitor, for they betrayed the Constitution and the American people with their malignant and treasonous actions.
I believe that January 6th, 2021 marks a new era in our country. An era that will be filled with more ultra-ludicrous conspiracy theories, constant threats to state and federal officials, violent protests before and after elections, and regular terrorist acts against the public, particularly communities of color.
And yet, one week later, I see reasons for optimism.
- I think it is impossible for a rational person to watch the violent white domestic terrorists and traitors of January 6th and the lack of a security presence and compare it to the mass personnel and regular use of excessive force against peaceful protestors of color. American hypocrisy was on full display in our national Capitol for our citizens and all the world to behold. Those that deny it are most likely liars, racists, or delusional.
- Multiple social media companies banned Trump and purged a number of extremist groups shortly after the day of terrorists and traitors. This slows the spread of disinformation, disrupts their ability to recruit and organize, and sends a very clear message that Mr. Trump and many of his most ardent supporters have spoken and operated in ways that are antithetical to our democracy and principles. These actions were years too late, but I still applaud that they have finally been taken.
- After 9/11, the US security state turned its full attention to terrorism from the Middle East. The Department of Homeland Security was created. Our Armed Forces engaged in a perpetual state of war for almost twenty years. Over the last four deranged years, President Trump and many of his followers made specious claims about the Deep State, the corrupt failures of the FBI, and the oppressive and unfair attention paid to some right-wing groups. These were vicious falsehoods. After 1/6/21, I hope and believe that the US security state will, for the first time, be giving a great deal of attention to alt-right militia groups, white supremacists, domestic terrorists, and other abject human failures who preach hatred and violence. This should have happened over a decade ago, but our history has shown that we get most things wrong before we finally get them right. I can think of no better use of the National Guard then to seek out and destroy those who waive Confederate and Nazi flags on American soil.
- In the fall of 2019, I deployed to Poland with the US Army National Guard. Our base was in the Northeast, less than 50 miles from the Russian border. I traveled around Poland and the Baltic States. I visited museums in all four countries that were dedicated to WW2, the Soviet occupation, and the peaceful overthrow that happened between 1988 and 1991. Those people have endured far worse in their lifetimes than the typical American can possibly imagine and today their countries are freer and more prosperous than in any time in their histories. We have a number of advantages that those countries lacked, including a free press, huge oceans as borders, and a democracy that is 231 years old and survived a civil war, the Great Depression, two world wars, a false red scare, and the nuclear age.
- Most significantly, my heart has been warmed by the response of Fortune 500 companies over the last eight days. Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, Marriot, Dow, Visa, Walmart, Google, Microsoft, Hallmark, and many others have halted political donations and some have cut financial ties with Trump’s various businesses. It was a bus boycott that began a move away from segregation in the South. Since World War II, economic pressure has led to many changes in our country, for both good and bad. I imagine that corporate boards and executive officers have been partaking in extensive, nervous, and soul-searching meetings and weighing whether saving 5% in taxes and eliminating regulations is worth the tradeoff of conducting business and living in a country where home grown terrorists seek to thwart democracy and federal politicians urge rioters to kill their rivals in the streets. Pay close attention to what these companies do over the next six months: if they refuse to donate money to Congressman who sought to decertify Biden’s landslide election without a shred of evidence and cut permanent ties with the Trump organization and selfish politicians who seek to pick up his baton of fraud and disgrace, then you’ll know that, in the words of the immortal Bob Dylan, the times they are actually a’changing.