We All Bear Responsibility for the Attack on the Capitol
On Jan 6th, 2021, I watched in horror with the rest of the world as a frenzied mob stormed the US Capitol. My horror was not disbelief though. I saw this coming, hoped it wouldn’t but here we are.
In October 2020, I wrote about The Need to Re-friend Our Un-friendships and how our collective hate for one another was going to tear America apart. I’m not a psychic or claim any clairvoyant powers, the writing was literally on all our Social Media walls, plain to see if one was willing to look.
Eerily, I wrote:
“I would not be surprised if there is violence after the election results are finally in regardless of who wins the presidency. In fact, I’m expecting it.”
And, here we are.
We live in a fractured country and we all deserve a little blame for what happened.
Of course, there were a LOT of kooky QAnon conspiracy theorists there, Proud Boys and Oath-keepers and the ever-present anarchist opportunists. But as we’re now finding out, the rioters included lots of “Normal People”.
As the media was focusing on QAnon Shaman and the verified racist Proud Boys and known militia groups, I was most taken with those that looked like seemingly “normal” people. (To be fair, without his get up QAnon Shaman does look relatively normal.)
I’m sure you’ve been following along as these people are being identified and arrested on Homegrown Terrorists on Instagram, the media and various Twitter feeds. (The fact that they all weren’t arrested on Jan 6 is another story for another day.)
Many are relishing in the MAGA tears and I was too at first. “Action” meet my good friend “Consequences”.
But, as the participants are being identified and the arrests are coming into public view, the hard truth is that there were so many “regular” folks who got sucked into the lies and conspiracies that brought them to the Capitol steps.
Small business owners, veterans, folks in real estate, small town nurses, assistant architects, students, bartenders, Local & State Representatives, and somehow even more astonishingly, MAGA Grandmas.
Like the guy holding Pelosi’s lectern, smiling at the camera. We all know his story now: stay at home dad, furniture maker and his wife is a doctor.
Yes, they are domestic terrorists. No, they should not avoid punishment.
However, we should not dismiss the them as a faceless mob of boogeymen. We must, for the sake of our future as a country, acknowledge the fact that every single one of them is a brother, sister, cousin, parent or old friend from high school that we stopped talking to or blocked on social media over the last 4 years.
How did it come to this? How did they get… here?
In “The Need to Re-Friend Our Un-Friendships” I wrote:
“I’m not saying we’re absolutely destined for civil war. Neither am I saying your 2nd cousin is definitely going to join a militia and wreak havoc on a capitol building. What I am saying is I’ve seen what is brewing on the other side.”
Turns out your 2nd cousin you used to hang out with actually did join a militia group and found some new friends to cruise with after you stopped texting. Your casually racist aunt you blocked on FB was recruited to QAnon, bought plane tickets to DC and though she’s never been violent, she joined in as they beat a cop to death. Your MAGA dad you stopped talking to was just arrested, lost his job and yes, he will be going to prison.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Trump all played an unconscionable role in this but they can’t bear all the blame. That’s a cop-out and a too-easy way for us to avoid looking at our own participation these last four years.
We Libs shut these folks out of our lives and social media feeds starting 4 years ago almost to the day. We exclaimed we “just couldn’t have their Trump toxicity in our lives anymore”. Unfollow.
We bragged to each other about shutting them out of our lives and how wonderful and freeing it felt and how you should do it too for your mental health. Blocked.
We congratulated ourselves for taking the ultimate action in bravery to shun family members and friends, the sole reason being they voted for Trump. As if we don’t live in a 2-party Democracy. Regardless… Canceled.
So, what happened next? Set adrift from their community, they did what other marginalized people do when their family disowns them for their beliefs, life orientation — political or otherwise. They sought out a new family, their ‘Chosen Family’.
And, find it they did. Online FB groups replaced phone calls to family members. Militia training on the weekends was putting a thrill in an otherwise very lonely life. Conspiracy groups welcomed them in with the promise to finally feel like they truly belong somewhere and people cared about them again.
We cut them loose and they were embraced by communities that supported their same political views, surrounded by others whose families also didn’t want them anymore.
They were allowed to stew in that bile, get indoctrinated and reinforce their unhinged ideas without any pushback from us. And, now they are driven even further into these black-hole echo-chambers.
I am not saying you are to blame for your Aunt becoming a QAnon follower or your 2nd cousin’s actions were anyone’s but his own. I also am not advocating for toxic relationships and yes, personal mental health is a priority.
What I am saying is that the mass culling of “Anyone who voted for Trump can unfollow me” to prove a political point has contributed to this divide. Every “screaming match” with family members and friends ending in “F*ck Trump” and a block on social media added more fuel to this fire.
Action meet Consequences…
To casually cut ourselves out of this horrifying narrative is a tepid and cowardly attempt to adjust the reality of how we got here as a country.
To be clear: this is NOT a plea to excuse the insurrectionists’ actions. This is a plea to own up to our own participation in this horrific timeline.
Like it or not, we Libs played a part in storming the Capitol. We were watching on our screens but we were there in spirit. They carried us with them as hostages, another injustice added to the pile to focus their rage on.
We were one small but significant section of their target that day. We’ve been stoking this fire since 2016 and that makes us accomplices to every window broken, every life ruined and every life lost.