Tag Archives: violent insurrection

A Consequence That Has Been Years in the Making

Laurie says:


A friend pointed me at an article by Danté Stewart: “Their Lives Are Defended. Ours Are Ruined” in Sojourners yesterday.

I was planning to post this later. I’d watched the attack on the Capitol as it happened. Then today I was watching the videos of the attack at the impeachment and I realized I needed to post this now. What he says is true and clear and important. These are extracted quotes – you want to read the whole article.

“This demands, indeed, a simple-mindedness quite beyond the possibilities of the human being. Complexity is our only safety and love is the only key to our maturity. And love is where you find it.” ―James Baldwin

Danté Stewart: I have tried to find ways to speak about this country and its failure — failures that we have tried to preach about and write about and pray about; failures we sometimes try to ignore to salvage what little peace human beings can be afforded. This week, I witnessed the same terror so many of us did. I witnessed it all, and I am afraid, and I am angry.

“Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol and fled the white house,” my friend texts me. I read over her text, and I read it again. “What? Really?” I respond as I pull up the news on Twitter. “The US Capitol is on lockdown,” she says, “They are evacuating the Capitol right now.”…

“If they invaded the U.S. Capitol with Confederate flags, a noose, and other symbols of American hatred and were simply escorted out of the building, what does that say about a country that allows it?” —@stewartdantec

…But this is not a failure. This is the country that has been chosen for us. President Donald Trump and his supporters are but a reflection of the worst of American tradition. A country that meets people fighting for dignity and justice with tear gas and bullets, but meets people attempting a violent coup with apathy and silence is one that is loud in its declaration that it cares more about white supremacy than it does about democracy. It is a country that dares not face itself nor the terror it created. It dares not deal with the rot beneath the surface because, as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) so audaciously declared, it is “the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”

This is a powerful and persistent lie. It is a lie that keeps the country proud, singing songs, declaring blessings, and never doing anything to stop the terror that destroys us. If they invaded the U.S. Capitol with Confederate flags, a noose, and other symbols of American hatred and were simply escorted out of the building, what does that say about a country that allows it?

This is a consequence that has been years in the making.  At every moment in American history, historian Carol Anderson writes, this country has had chances to deal with white rage that “has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated.”…

…It is a profound delusion. It is a delusion that damns us. It is a delusion we can and must be liberated from if there is any hope for us, for our country, for our children, and for our future. 

I have not slept well in days. I wake up at 4:48 a.m. and I turn on James Baldwin’s 1987 interview with Mavis Nicholson as I make coffee. MSNBC plays in the background as I take a sip. I see the images from Wednesday and I am reminded of terror. In the interview, Baldwin cracks a smile. His teeth show. His mouth closes. He becomes resolute.

“Are you still in despair about the world?” Mavis asks him.
“I have never been in despair about the world,” Baldwin quietly responds. “I’m enraged, but I don’t think I’m in despair.”

I take another sip from my coffee. I want to feel love. I think I do, but I don’t. I want to feel hope. I think I do, but I don’t. I see more images of terrible white American men. I see a Confederate flag. I see a noose.

“Black people need witnesses in this hostile world which thinks everything is white,” he says.

I listen to Baldwin. I read Toni Morrison’s words on Jimmy’s courage: “to live life in and from its belly as well as beyond its edges, to see and say what was; to recognize and identify evil but never fear or stand in awe of it.”

My son comes downstairs. I look at him, his small Black body, his smile as he plays. “Daddy,” he says. He does not know Daddy is sad. Daddy is terrified. He does not hear my silent prayers over his body and over his future. I know the spirit of the ancestors is in my bones. The spirit of the Lord is upon me. I know that one day, we shall shake the foundations together.

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Look Back in Anger


Laurie and Debbie say:

It’s been 48 hours or so since the Capitol Building was cleared of domestic terrorists. Thanks to curfews and other factors, we have been spared much of the immediate violent fallout that could have occurred: Black churches and synagogues in DC and other cities suffered no serious harm, and no violent street protests appear to have made much headway.

The voices of our political “leaders” and our self-appointed pundits are loud and constant. All of them are prepared to tell us what the right punishment is for Donald Trump, what the DC police did or didn’t do that they should or shouldn’t have done, who should suffer consequences (and what consequences), etc. Most important, they all want to tell us what’s going to happen next–something no one knows.

We’d rather look at what did happen and offer some thoughts about why.

Even though many women participated in the rampage, and even though the Proud Boys are uncommonly diverse (and uncommonly proud of it) for an all-male far-right neofascist organization, this was basically an explosion of enraged white men. The Proud Boys were by no means the only instigators of Wednesday’s violence.

What are they angry about?

At base, they are angry because they are losing the privilege they believe is their birthright. In the last forty years, they and their fathers have lost a lot of power over women. In the last sixty years, they and their fathers and grandfathers had the opportunity to see what might happen if Black people actually made gains in education, employment, and affluence. They have always been told that they are the only people who deserve status, of wealth, and of power.

Watching what you have been told is your unquestioned birthright slip away from you will make you angry. This anger, by definition, has to be unexamined, because examining it can make it disappear: examined loss of privilege can result in a greater understanding of what you have that other people don’t, and what might be productively shared.

Add the election of Donald Trump to that pile of kindling, and you get a rage bonfire. Trump is a perfect example of the man born with everything and is constantly enraged because he doesn’t believe he has ever had enough, and — say what you like about his intelligence in other contexts — he is uncannily good at speaking to the unexamined rage, inflaming it, and directing it. This explains much about the last four years in the United States.

So he becomes not just a leader and an instigator, but a father and almost a deity to people who feel that he understands them when no one else does. He takes an entrenched American habit of expressing our anger outside our borders and brings it home to lay at the feet of his admirers. Then he loses an election. And, true to form for people whose ascendancy is unchallengeable, he refuses to admit that he lost. He marshals all his incendiary skills to inflame the only people who could conceivably save him …

… and they storm the U.S. Capitol. This is historically unprecedented, and happens in our very visual, news-in-your-eyeballs world. The people who hate, despise, and fear Trump react as if this mob of terrorists, armed with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and pipe bombs, has stormed our own houses. And we respond with two emotions: fear and our own rage.

Fear makes it harder to examine rage. Rage, by its nature, resists examination. If it cannot be expressed, it strives to be denied. Nonetheless, quieting our fear and examining our rage is what we must do. Anger denied is powerless; anger expressed without examination is purely destructive. We need only to look to real leaders like Stacey Abrams and Rev. William Barber to see what happens when anger is acknowledged, contained, and directed. Examined anger is effective. And effectiveness, above all else, is what we need right now.

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