Stop Contextualizing: We’re Still in the Moment

photo of Capitol swarm AP Photo/John Minchillo

NowWatching C-SPAN at 1:48 p.m. on Thursday, January 7th and a caller from Pennsylvania has just pleaded with President Trump to enact martial law.

It is apparent that nobody really knows what the hell is happening at this moment in America.

After a rally at the Ellipse in D.C. at noon on Wednesday, a mob of Trump-flag-waving citizens stormed the Capitol building and, meeting little resistance, breached the doors and swarmed the hallowed halls of our legislative branch.

While we may be saddened by yesterday’s antics, we cannot be surprised.

Trump does not know how the government works. His followers do not care how the government works. Trump does not value or adhere to truth. His followers ignore it.

Our system of government was designed and crafted to prevent a single person from wielding complete authority. The design also ensures no one branch is the absolute seat of power.

As children we were taught the wisdom of this balance — how the founders rejected the monarchy and divine right because they had seen the insidiousness of concentrated authority. And yet, now, we have citizens who have elevated President Trump to some kind of divinity. They have rejected authoritarianism in the form of lockdowns and masks but welcomed it in the form of federal armed personnel confronting black lives matter protesters.

So what the hell is actually happening?

One of the women on the street in DC yesterday called their action a “revolution.”

Can someone please explain that a revolution incited by the person in power isn’t a revolution? To exert authority or influence over the balanced branches isn’t revolutionary. It’s seizing power. And sending a mob to disrupt the business of one of those branches is insurrection.

Here’s what we know:

  1. We have a vast and tested election system that was validated and verified by multiple levels of local, state, and federal civil servants. They did their jobs and they did them well.
  2. We have a broken communication infrastructure that relies upon media outlets whose incentives are financial. Media spins the story to their own audience preferences. And social media makes everyone a reporter or an analyst, and dilutes the honest and relevant reporting of professionals in a disrupted industry. Word of mouth and hearsay reign supreme in the vacuum of facts, whether they’re inconvenient or unavailable.
  3. We have multiple sub-nations of angry people. The Black Lives Matter socialists, the Trump Nationalists, organized, disorganized, it doesn’t matter if they’re fueled by conspiracy websites or indoctrinated by echo chambers. As Spike Cohen tweeted last night, “people who are happy and comfortable don’t riot.”

This this week’s political activities:

  • the Georgia runoffs and related campaigns
  • the Trump rally and subsequent march of hooligans
  • the Capitol breach and treatment of white agitators by police in comparison to black lives protesters, and
  • the audacity of a select group in Congress to reject the electors.

But most appalling is how clear it’s become that people really don’t know what the hell is happening.

When Sen. Lindsey Graham does an about face on the Senate floor, throws up his hands, and says, “Enough is enough,”

When NBC’s Chuck Todd congratulates Graham for coming around,

When social media carries images of a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt in the Capitol; when Confederate flags, 6MWNE, and Nazi tattoos — hatred is on display and normalized as social activism,

When lawmakers, the media, social digital platforms, and those MAGA rioters are all shouting conflicting versions of what is happening,

… what’s left?

Doubt, hypocrisy, and dystopia. And plague. Don’t forget plague.

So where do we go from here? Are we ready to ask that question yet? Or are we still reeling from the fact that some citizens think martial law is the way to go?


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