By: Arjun Joshi
Art by Terrica Joseph
The events that unfolded over the few last weeks left us all with plenty to think about. Whether you prefer to call it an attempted coup, an insurrection, or straight-up domestic terrorism, what occurred at the Capitol on January 6th gave Americans much to reflect on. We’ve had some time to do so, but Republican conclusions leave much to be desired, especially since their conclusion seems to be “it was a hard day, but we must move on and unify.”
The U.S. appears more divided than ever before. Republicans point fingers at Democrats because the new majority party voted on impeachment about a week before Trump's departure from office. Democrats are also set on prosecuting the terrorists who broke into the Capitol. It’s ironic to me that the supposed party of “law and order” is so disturbed by the desire to see the law brought to bear. After all, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley publicly joined President Donald Trump in disputing the veracity of our elections, and persisted in challenging its validity all the way into this week. The results? A “Stop the Steal” rally endorsed by the President that turned into a fully blown mob; right-wing provocateurs, Proud Boys, and QAnon acolytes stormed the Capitol with the nebulous intent of overturning the election and somehow securing Donald Trump a second term.
Violence at the Capitol
The illegality of what occurred should be obvious, but the part that truly makes my blood boil? Republican calls for unity come on the heels of an attack where 116 police officers from the Capitol and D.C. Metro departments were injured, two of which died. Four rioters also died, Ashli Babbitt’s fatal shooting at the of police being the most well known.
Not only do the instigators of this violence have blood on their hands, but the gallows and large, wooden cross erected on the lawn of the Capitol Building that day allude to even more sinister intentions. Gallows are only ever used for one purpose, and coupled with the pictures of “Zip-Tie Man” who made it into the Senate Chamber, I shudder at the thought of what the terrorists had planned. Even worse, while the Republican Party has been quite comfortable casting itself as the party of faith, the wooden cross served a literal act of intimidation against representatives of diverse religious faiths and ethnic groups. The gallows is scary unto itself, but the cross makes it very clear that Democrats such as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are notably the first two Muslims in the House, were actively targeted by the violence.
Trump loyalists choosing sides
I suppose I should give Republicans the slightest bit of credit. The cornucopia of resignations from the White House, and the mild condemnations from people such as Lindsay Graham, have signaled that President Trump is no longer the beneficiary of obsequious boot-licking like he has been for four years. But in school, you get a reduction in letter grade for every day your assignments are tardy, and I have to apply the same standard to these grown men and women. They enabled and supported Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric towards people of color, and refused to criticize him or check him when he spouted complete falsehoods to his followers. Those injuries and deceased people from 1/6? Those are the casualties in Trump’s War on Truth.
One other aspect of this that I find supremely condescending is that it wasn’t enough to egg on election deniers in the weeks after the election, but some people continued providing support on the day of the attack. In fact, I specifically want to showcase Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado. You see, as the attacks ensued, members of Congress were evacuated to secure locations and expressly told not to call, text, or use social media in case the location of the delegation was revealed. This should be obvious, but to spell it out, the attack on the Capitol was meant to hold hostage, hurt, or kill Congresspeople, and exposing their locations would have been an active threat to their lives and persons. It would’ve been one thing for Boebert to worriedly text family – I could forgive that. But she specifically tweeted that first: the House members were locked in the House Chambers for their safety. Then next, that Speaker Pelosi was evacuated from the chambers. By exposing that Pelosi had been moved, Boebert was opening Pelosi to an attack on her persons, and considering how threatening and hateful the online rhetoric towards her has been, I can’t even imagine how callous someone has to be to expose their colleagues to that risk.
Dangers continue after the attack
Speaking of risk, Representative Pramila Jayapal contracted COVID-19 from her unmasked colleagues. Several Congresspeople revealed that some of their Republican colleagues refused to wear masks in the confined spaces where they were hunkering down. In fact, they actively mocked attempts to provide masks to others. So to recap, Republicans not only opened the Speaker of the House up to a potential attack on her life, but exposed one of their colleagues to a disease that has killed over 300,000 Americans and leaves varying levels of semi-permanent or permanent effects with those who recover. Yet, Democrats are lectured that it’s divisive to prosecute the President for all of this?
While we’re at it, where’s the Republican sense of loyalty to each other? Remember, the crowds were literally chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they broke into the Capitol. Mitt Romney and Lindsay Graham were harangued at airports in the days before and after the attack, so shouldn’t Republicans want justice for their threatened members? My contempt was already quite thorough because of how indifferent Republicans have been to the lives of citizens who don’t identify with their politics, but to completely throw your Vice President and Senate colleagues under the bus? There may be honor among thieves, but clearly none among Republicans.
Moving forward, but not moving on
Dear reader, you’re probably asking what the point of this tirade was. You almost certainly knew how scummy and morally bankrupt the Republican Party has been, so why am I even typing this? Because I want unity. But unity cannot begin with a mentality to “forgive and forget” about what happened on 1/6. When South Africa ended Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and the ANC couldn’t simply govern as though nothing happened, and when the Federal Republic of Germany was formed in the ashes of World War II, they didn’t just let former Nazi officials back into society. There had to be an intentional, meaningful program to redress grievances and bring justice to parties affected by the previous regimes and governments.
That comparison may sound extreme, but post-Apartheid and post-Hitler were genuine come to Jesus moments for South Africa and Germany. They had to reckon with how they arrived at the points of disaster and hate, and truly grapple with how to move forward. The United States won’t just be redressing Twitter terms of service or false claims of election fraud. We have to break down systems of policing that allow white supremacists – many of whom are military veterans or current police officers – break into the heart of the nation’s government while Black people are shot and tear-gassed for peaceful protest and blamed for right-wing subversion of property. We have to look in the mirror and ponder the depths of our party loyalties that we refuse to impeach a President who threw his own Vice President and legislative allies to what was, for all intents and purposes, a lynch mob. And above all, we need to understand that reconciliation and unity do not happen from the absence of action, but from a meaningful and intentional course of reform and accountability, not just for our neighbors and colleagues, but ourselves.