I wish I could say I was surprised by the rioting and insurrection in my nation’s capitol yesterday. But I am not. Everything that happened was consistent with behavior I’ve seen from individuals and groups over the past several years. I feel many things today. Surprised is not one of them. I feel empathy and frustration for those who are shocked/surprised. It is hard to have your worldview shaken, but also, weren’t you paying attention? Or listening to people who have been predicting outcomes like this since 2016? Then I have to turn consideration toward myself and my own actions. Was there more that I should have done that would have helped others see this coming? I’m such a small pebble in this social flow, I doubt I could have changed the course of the river. Also, we would then be in the pandemic problem. A disaster averted leaves a sizable portion of population disbelieving that there was any reason to be concerned at all.
Today I’m still a tiny pebble. I’ve got friends online who are predicting that things are going to get worse before it gets better. I hope not. I want this to be the moment that the vast majority of conservatives wakes up and shakes off all the trappings of Trumpism. I want conservatives to lead the charge in removing Trump from power. I’m happy to see that Facebook has decided that Trump doesn’t get to speak on their platform until after inauguration day, and maybe not ever. Take away the man’s microphone. Take away his legitimacy. Yes that creates a new set of problems as those who support him will find ways to congeal and will likely learn how to organize and be more effective. We could end up with an ongoing domestic terrorist problem. That is better than another full coup attempt.
I’m not sure what true accountability looks like for yesterday’s actions and for all the choices that led up to yesterday’s events. But accountability needs to go deeper than simple punishment. It needs to last longer and be more transformative. Each of us needs to search our hearts and decide what accountability we have to democracy, community, to our neighbors. I was not in Washington DC yesterday and committed no crimes, but I can still be a better and more vocal citizen to help build a society that I want to live in.
It can be as simple as paying attention to the words we use to describe yesterday’s events. Some news sources are talking about a protest of patriots gone awry. Others are using words like mob, riot, insurrection, and violence. In order to make people accountable, we need to use the hard words. The precise words. An insurrection is a violent uprising against an authority or government. Breaching the capitol building was an insurrection. A riot is a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd. That word applies too. The fact that the body count was so low doesn’t change the application of those words.
Use the hard words. Confront the hard things. And somehow do those in a compassionate and educational way. This is my challenge for myself.