Is America getting a thirst for blood?
It’s a question I ask after hearing too many Republicans dismiss the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob trying to halt the counting of American citizens’ votes as a “normal tourist visit,” in the words of Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, the same Clyde seen — mouth open and terrified — helping to barricade the besieged doors that day.
When I was a Baltimore schoolgirl, we often visited Washington, D.C., to tour the monuments. It was an easy and informative field trip, barely an hour away by bus. Now kids can occasionally be unruly, and the nuns had to raise their voices once or twice. But I don’t recall ever erecting gallows on the Capitol lawn, breaking windows or pummeling police officers with batons and their own shields. In fact, I’m sure it would have made the front pages if a bunch of Black grade schoolers from St. Pius V Elementary ventured a foot beyond the velvet ropes, let alone desecrated the beautiful marble floors of a government building by using them as a toilet.
Have things changed that much for Clyde and all the others asking Americans and the world not to believe their lying eyes?
The list includes Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who said it “didn’t look like an armed insurrection to me” and insisted he had no fear of the mob shouting “Hang Mike Pence” because they weren’t, you know, Black Lives Matter protesters.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., called the rioters “peaceful patriots” and derided law enforcement tracking them down.
They are all taking their cues from the former president and current leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, who has described Jan. 6 as a veritable love fest, with insurrectionists “hugging and kissing the police and the guards.”
That’s an awful lot of gaslighting — not the word that immediately comes to mind but one I believe those nuns would prefer I use.
A different time
On 9/11, the world saw the planes hit the buildings. But there were still so many questions: Who planned it? How did security fail? What needed to be done so it could never happen again? There was an immediate call for a bipartisan, independent commission, just as there was after Jan. 6. But 20 years ago, perhaps because it was a foreign enemy, leaders of both parties could agree and make it happen.
Now the monster is inside the house. And the horrific thing is, a lot of folks love this monster.
It’s only logical for Republicans who once castigated Trump for sending his amped-up crowd on the march and refusing to quickly step in to halt the chaos to now back away from any reflection, even though the commission rules were negotiated in part by one of their own, New York Rep. John Katko. The House members who fell in line and most Senate Republicans would rather downplay a stunning act of domestic terrorism that tried to bring down democracy and instead concentrate on consolidating power in elections to come. The 2022 midterms are approaching, and there is so much on the party’s plate — so many voting restrictions to enact and 2020 results to audit, over and over again.
What scares me most, though, is the realization that all that obfuscation and all the excuses that GOP leaders such as Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are offering for opposition to the commission are not really necessary. For way too many Americans, the violence is the cost of doing business, if the business is maintaining a government of the (right) people, by the (right) people, for the (right) people, to grotesquely twist the words of famous Republican Abraham Lincoln.
Greene has been rewarded for her belligerence — be it the creepy and yearslong stalking of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., or her confronting a teen survivor of a school shooting. The donations roll in to this representative without a committee assignment, who seems to spend most of her time in a calculated state of rage, the “angry white woman” of nightmares.
An American Perspectives Survey from January found that more than 1 in 3 Americans (36 percent) agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” That’s a minority, to be sure, but still too close for comfort. A majority of Republicans (56 percent) supported the use of force, with independents at 35 percent and Democrats at 22 percent.
Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (29 percent) completely or somewhat agreed with the statement: “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions.” According to the survey: “The use of violence finds somewhat more support among Republicans than Democrats, although most Republicans oppose it. Roughly four in 10 (39 percent) Republicans support Americans taking violent actions if elected leaders fail to act. … Thirty-one percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats also support taking violent actions if elected leaders do not defend the country.”
And they’re armed
When you link those numbers with the fact that a majority of Republicans believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, that’s a frightening number of aggrieved Americans, and a lot of them carry guns. Remember, in Trump we had a president who rather than disavow a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, trolled her with insults before, during and after the plan was revealed.
More states are following the example of Texas, primed to enact a law that permits Texans to carry handguns without license or training, making it easier to shoot to kill than vote in the state, one that saw a massacre by a racist hunting Mexican Americans in El Paso.
It doesn’t escape my notice that while the predominantly white crowd of Capitol rioters wanted to disqualify the votes of American citizens in cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit — voters who looked like me — they worshipped Second Amendment protections that often don’t extend to African Americans, to Philando Castile, a Minnesotan with a permit he was shot reaching for, or Tamir Rice and John Crawford, shot immediately by law enforcement in the open-carry state of Ohio while they were holding guns that weren’t real.
In none of these cases did the usually vocal NRA spin a good guy with a gun narrative.
Inequality, delusions of a country slipping away and armed citizens willing to do something about it equals a true recipe for violent disaster.
We’ve been here before. As a reminder of just how incendiary it can get, note that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when white citizens, abetted and assisted by law enforcement, torched and bombed “Black Wall Street,” the homes and businesses of Black Oklahomans, and murdered hundreds of their fellow Tulsans. It happened because a lot of “ordinary” Americans were OK with it, and hid evidence of the crime.
It’s not just that an insurrection is being “disappeared.” It’s that my fellow Americans, especially the ones who lead, apparently think it was just another day in America.
Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.