There has already been much written about least Wednesday’s failed insurrection at the Capitol in D.C., and the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia, and they will likely comprise whole sections of history books. But, because this is 2021 and social media is the omnipresent font of all (instant) reflection, kvetching and pontificating, we can already (unsurprisingly) read/hear what apologists (minus the actual apology) for the coup-attempt think.
The “whataboutism” of modern political discourse, practiced primarily by those who support Donald Trump and most often deployed to distract and divert with false equivalencies away from his plethora of unethical, likely criminal, amoral and incompetent actions is now de rigueur after something like his incitement of a mob to overthrow our Government (wait, isn’t HE the Government?).
The most common refrain since last Wednesday from Trump’s defenders goes something like: “yea, but what happened at the Capitol was no different from what happened last summer in America’s cities by BLM and Antifa”. The allegation seems to be that righteous indignation against the seditionists is hypocritical since “Antifa burned our cities” and that was no similar outrage from the “left”.
As is so often the case with this incredibly tiresome, but diabolically effective political propaganda tool, there is a granule of truth somewhere in a silo of inaccurate and fallacious noise.
First, the similarities between the protests this past summer and the riotous mob last week: 1) there were some laws broken, and 2) calls from the “left” (given the incredible rightward shift of the Overtun Window today that appears to be anyone to the left of Ted Cruz) were loud and consistent for prosecution.
Now the myriad distinctions: 1) police in many cities, and especially D.C., this summer used tear gas, incendiary devices, and many weapons to “put down” protests – even peaceful ones, 2) the absence of any meaningful police force Wednesday was exactly the reason it escalated the way it did, 3) In Portland some protesters were taken away in unmarked cars by law enforcement – there are no reports at all of that happening in D.C., 4) the notion that the headless/leaderless/shapeless blob called “Antifa” could organize, much less premediate a plan gives the group merely “organized” as an anti-fascist ideology far more logistical credit than it deserves. On the other hand, there is tremendous evidence of the coordinated and pre-planned actions of a number of hard right established organizations with the express, and very public, intention of actually stealing the election, 5) the vast, vast majority (millions) of actual protesters this summer were safely and appropriately protesting for racial justice. What appears to be the entire group Wednesday were rioting insurrectionists who vowed to overthrow the government and (many) called for violence against the “traitors” (including people like, you know, VP Pence), 6) there is no evidence of any real “leader” of the “left” in anyway condoning violence or destruction. At the same time many leaders on the right – up to and including the President – actually incited the destruction Wednesday, and last, but definitely not least, 7) in the U.S. the law, reflecting cultural norms and expectations views crimes against property (i.e., capitalism) very, very differently than crimes against our collective government (i.e. Democracy). Insurrection, up to 10 years. Sedition, up to 20 years. Treason, not less than 5 years, or death. Criminal mischief, misdemeanor- fine, felony – 1 year.
There is another interesting, yet unfortunately predictable distinction – the apparent need of anyone who has ever supported even related philosophical goals to disavow when the action is tied to the “left” and the virtual absence of that need for leaders of the “right” who are even actual supporters of the action.
Obama was forced to do it when his former pastor made divisive statements, though he had no connections whatsoever to the Pastor (at the time) or his sentiments. Muslim leaders the world over are forced to do when some madman blows himself up and claims he did it in the name of Allah, despite the 1 Billion Muslims who abhor violence. African American leaders were forced to do it this last summer when a very small handful of criminal opportunists break Starbucks windows or torch something, even though millions marched in peaceful protest.
Why does the “left” always have to answer for those relative few, who might act both antithetically to the cause, and are miniscule in numbers…. Yet, the right does need to answer for the actions of their followers, very often, like last Wednesday, who represent the movement’s sine qua non?
For this Country to truly “move on” from its inglorious past there needs to first be truth, and then reconciliation.