In the Wake of January 6th
Celebration, Sedition Sense-Making, and Solace
Reading time: <5 minutes
January 6th was one of the most full days in recent memory. And we’ve had a lot of full days lately. Because of all that happened, I’m delaying a piece I had planned to publish here today, in favor of spending a moment in the wake of January 6th to talk about #January6th. It deserves a bit of a probing.
I had not intended to get political here on The Pocket. The moment, however, has emerged, and my care and curiosity has landed square in the thick of this. I don’t intend to pursue the political here too often. But the Capitol storming merits a word or two. And writing and publishing about anything else felt strange.
First, let’s raise a glass to the results of the Georgia election. The status quo got its comeuppance. In the face of gerrymandering and generations-long efforts to block the vote, the voters showed up in droves. Let’s raise a glass to Stacey Abrams. To the many local community organizers and voters who built this movement. It epitomizes true democracy and true building of power for folks most deserving of and most often shut out from vote and voice.
Organizers like Helen Butler (Executive Director at Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda), Nsé Ufot (CEO at New Georgia Project), Deborah Scott (Executive Director at Georgia Strategic Alliance for New Directions and Unified Policies), and Tamieka Atkins (Executive Director at ProGeorgia), Dignity and Power Now’s Helen Jones, and many others.
It’s sad and disappointing AF not to get a proper celebration in for something as crystalline good as a democracy win-against-odds. But let’s celebrate anyway:
Now, the seditious riot at and storming of the US Capitol was just mind-blowing for so many reasons. I think it’s worth teasing apart a few key threads to make sense of this historic, traumatizing event. I don’t have full purchase on this, and I am no political expert, but I have some hunches. I would be so curious to hear from others.
Surprised? or Saw this Coming?
This was horrifying to watch on live stream. I heard and felt a lot of “I can’t believe this is actually happening” type of epithets on MSM and social media and within my own addled mind.
But let’s be real: we should not and could not possibly be surprised that this occurred. This event was the long Upside Down arc of oppression and white supremacy getting its centuries-long fruition. This event was the natural outcome of the Trump presidency and his fomenting of white supremacist fury and extremist voices for the last four years.
The seditious storming of the Capitol was literally the most logical conclusion of the Trump presidency.
“Protestors” or “Seditious Terrorists”?
There’s a gaslighting thread going around that tries to equate this event yesterday at the Capitol with the racial justice protests of 2020. This is offensive nonsense.
The marches and protests of 2020 were legitimate exercises of Constitutional rights by and for folks and communities whose humans rights have been stripped for ages. They were civil rights movement actions by hundreds of thousands of mostly peaceful protestors. Yes there was violence at some of the protests.
But to equate a random looting of a Sephora on Main Street with the organized, armed, violent, seditious gangs aiming to interrupt the Constitutional process of elections and peaceful transfer of power that is the foundation of our democracy… is just offensive nonsense.
This is not to fall into oversimplifying things. We do not get to any healing and reconciliation by reducing criminal acts down to villainy.
My sense is that the ‘patriots’ believed they were defending fundamental rights. They believed their rights had been stripped away as well. They were fed the narrative of a rigged and stolen election. They’ve been at the mercy of the same misinformation and disinformation algorithms that we all likely have been, regardless of our side on the matter. There is without a doubt a method to the madness that was perpetrated, not to mention a culture and legacy of white supremacy.
But to be sure, “protestors” they were not. I’ve been at many protests and have seen neither zip ties nor guns.
Police/National Guard? Fail or Complicit?
There’s this major conundrum about what happened at the Capitol: where the actual fuck were the authorities?
Let’s put this into context (and I credit writer Cory Doctorow for distilling a lot of this in an email on Thursday):
United States law enforcement of all kinds have had decades of experience spying on and infiltrating activist groups of all kinds. There’s links and reporting about this fact all over the interwebs: for example, surveillance of Dakota Access Pipeline organizers, and military level surveillance of Black Lives Matter, and the assassination of Fred Hampton by Chicago police in 1969.
And yet, the seditious storming of the Capitol was planned in the open for weeks, discussed in the open on alt-tech and social, and rallied by the outgoing President of the United State on public channels. In Doctorow’s words,
“Did none of these agencies see the terrorist plan that had been scrawled in 100' tall flaming letters across the internet? How could they be caught this flatfooted?”
There’s a sliding scale between incompetence, honest mistake, ill-prepared and complicity. Wherever the truth lands on that sliding scale, a real reckoning is required. As historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat puts it:
Here’s hoping there’s a forceful reckoning against the perpetrators and vocal supporters of this coup attempt and insurrection. There’s far too many real-world concerns to confront — Covid, climate change, inequality, etc. This “strategy of disruption” based on non-real claims is a waste of our time and a stain on our democracy.
Ok, had to get that off my chest. I’ve been in dialogue on all of this with loved ones and felt a deeper, wider inquiry about this moment was important.
And now for something completely different: an eclectic playlist of some solace for fraught times. Made by yours truly, to help usher a little bit of a palette cleanse and some self-care after the week we’ve all had. Yes, it starts with “Georgia on My Mind.” Yes, it’s on the nose. Still, it’s a transcendent song. Hope you enjoy.
Until next week. Thanks for reading.