It has become clear that we humans are very good at seeing the worst in each other. Placing our beliefs above all else allows us to raise or diminish others per our needs, feeding our narratives, whether to dehumanize or create demigods.
And while I’d like to assume the best in my fellow humans, in this current world where a person in a hoodie, eating skittles, is mistaken for a hoodlum while a person with a torch wrapped in a white hood is given a pass, maybe I am right to assume the worst.
Some of our better angels prevail, but on the whole lately, vitriolic language and vengeful attitude reigns and I don’t see an end. Nor can there be an end when fighting for truth, for social justice, human rights and still find ourselves fighting Nazis, only this time, they aren’t on a distant shore, they are thriving among us.
This American political climate has pitted us against each other in such corners of rage and righteousness, that we’ve likely not seen this level of hatred, blame and retribution since the north and south were so uncivil as to enter the Civil War.
To state the obvious, there are vast battlegrounds between thinking and acting, however, as we saw at the Capitol on January 6th, the front lines are moving closer.
Our compass is indeed, broken. There is a very real danger to democracy when we see this most deadly insurgence referenced in the same way as protests for racial justice inflamed by police in riot gear this past summer. Broken glass at a Gap or Urban Outfitters, is unfortunate and indeed upsetting, no business owner should have to deal with that damage and loss, but that is property that is repairable. Defaced statues will represent divided perspectives on history and what needs saving or changing.
Destruction of property is not ideal, and not being condoned here, as many small business owners and Black owned businesses were victims of the assault on property amidst a revolution of humanity this summer. Simply put, toppled statues and loss of retail property is not on par with killing unarmed citizens. To think so says indicates superiority.
Attacking a clothing store is not an attack on democracy, though it certainly makes a statement about capitalism and other fundamental flaws of society. Any attempt to compare looting to sedition is gaslighting and absolutely runs counter to the Constitution. Dishonoring and damaging the sacred space of our United States Capitol building, trespassing on federal land, and representing a direct threat to lawmakers and democratic process, rooted in conspiracy theory and mistruths is not patriotism.
When we are looking at each other let us be sure to see ourselves clearly first, before we point the finger at others. Ask, how are we supporting what we stand for within the parameters of democracy? Are we working within the system for change or are we trying to overtake the system by force? Are human rights at stake? More importantly, are our causes just?
When we look at this photo and see the forces of good and evil in battle, who do we identify with? Are we all Gandalf and Aragon? Or do we even know when we’ve crossed into Orc territory?
Systemic racism is not new. Even Ben and Jerry can easily lay it out for us. And many, despite claims to the contrary, are not aware they are racist or know how to be anti racist. BLM protests had a clear message on nonviolence at each rally. There were speakers, artists, spoken word, musicians, and prayer vigils, asking for calm, asking to march for justice. There is no disputing that there were bad actors at some of those thousands of rallies, no disputing damage by incitors, outside instigators and certainly some of the protestors fueled by hate than by the message of creating change. The majority were peaceful, with many protesters turning over provocateurs to police. Right wing agitators were also among those damaging property and arrested.
This January 6th rally wasn’t a protest that got out of hand. This was an organized and weaponized coup. Military veterans and personnel used combat tactics such as Ranger File to storm the Capitol that January day. Several speakers stoked the crowd, including Trump, then President of the United States, who claimed falsehoods about the election, asked for a fight like hell, for strength and a march to the capitol. This was misinformed chaos weaponized into a political tool with rally goers continually calling for harm and death to Mike Pence, AOC and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The BLM movement, founded in 2013 after the murder of Treyvon Martin, has gained international recognition and traction. BLM protests have stood against systemic injustice, and were stoked by need for reform after hte blatant mistreatment and murder of George Floyd. The movement is well documented in countless prison and arrest statistics, and in every video of unarmed Black life lost at the hands of Police.
Demonstrations have been on the rise since Donald Trump took office in 2016 and political violence has increased, especially at several notable right wing, White supremacist rallies in Charlottesville and Seattle where innocent protestors were killed by cars driving into the crowd. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, ACLED, tracks both.
The level of intent around violence has been rising. The Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC tracks hate groups and recruitment has gone up exponentially since Trump took office. The Capitol protest was planted by years of groundwork laid. Months of unrelenting election fraud and lies worked to incite a mob, an open attack to subvert democracy. Anyone paying attention knew the insurrection was predictable, the pot was right. Lambs were led to slaughter the opposition.
Patriots don’t use Flag poles to break windows and beat police officers in a citizens’ assembly. Pitchforks, military gear, bear spray, guns and zip ties aren’t taken to a peaceable protest. The angry mob killed an officer, beating him brutally with a fire extinguisher, while over 50 other police were injured during the riot.
A mob is different from a protest.
First, it goes without saying that any loss of life is tragic. A total of nine lives were lost during BLM protests, and 14,000 arrested in over 2,000 locations, across several months, in every city and state in our nation. Local and State Police and National Guard donned military gear and battle tactics during those protests, repeatedly attacking peaceful protestors, including children and journalists, using rubber bullets, flash bangs, tear gas and force. Police officers were videoed stealing or puncturing water bottles on hot summer days, manipulating curfew exits, denying due process and basic needs after arrests, destroying first aid stations and knocking down old men at BLM protests this past summer.
In stark contrast, Capitol police on January 6th, were woefully unprepared by their superiors despite FBI warnings of Trump supporter online threat of war and violence for weeks. A very different treatment style emerged inside the capitol as officers were filmed trying to reason with some rioters, talking politely and posing for selfies with insurgents. Other members of the police were off duty in the crowd on the capitol siege.
The FBI is debating sedition charges for those rioters who stormed the capitol, breached security, and yet didn’t steal or damage property. Republicans, the party of law and order would have you believe that laws weren’t broken, that they, the rioters and their President may have incited the siege, but doesn’t deserve the ramifications or consequences of his actions under oath of office.
I think we can all safely assume that if People of Color had stormed the Capitol, history reveals that they would not have been escorted out of the building without arrest and that more than one firearm would have been discharged. Between the BLM protests during the summer of 2020 and the siege in D.C., there is little to compare.
And yet, here we are comparing them, and giving credence and airtime to those who would incite or defend sedition.
Our relationship to truth has shifted irrevocably. Egos and agendas have gotten in the way of American history. Traitors claim to be patriots fueled by falsehood and belief.
It is not possible, without commonly held, credible, rigorously tested science, data and fact, to see each other commonly. Through different filters on the same lens, we see ourselves fairer. The originals are not equal.