In the early afternoon of the 7th January 2021, a salmagundi of thugs, conspiracy theorists and neo-nazis, stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Yesterday, for the first time in its history, a Confederate flag was flown through the Capitol in an act of violence, and it was flown alongside the imagery of the US Constitution, the American Nazi Party, and the American flag.
What has branded by some as “an act of domestic terrorism”, and an “attempted coup d’etat”, symbolises much more than that. It represents the culmination in what so many of the Republican Party have either sought or allowed to happen, in the last ten years, a cult of doublethink on the right. Long have moderate and liberal faces in America lamented on the increasingly divisive nature of US politics, and decried a perceived loss in a bi-partisan spirit, the death of democratic conventions once taken as axiomatic. And yet the same faces failed to truly challenge this. And their conservative counterparts failed to recognise the insidious, pervasive danger that this posed to an American constitution that they supposedly loved so dearly. Both failed to do this because truthfully, it suited their narrative. The Republican Party got a base of activists for whom the truth was little more than an inconvenience, and the Democrats got a group of people they could point to and say; “look at how bad that is… are you really gonna’ throw yourself in with that lot?”.
For the first time, when the angry mob was in their offices, and their faces, politicians finally admitted how poisonous the last ten years have been, with the Vice President saying “we condemn the violence that took place here, in the strongest possible terms”, a sharp contrast with his President’s sentiment of “fight like hell … and take back our country”.
Since 2010, the Republican Party in America has moved from being the party of strong-arm diplomacy and fiscal conservatism to being a machine, with no real end goal, no policies or ideals, just the realpolitik means to get there. So what does such a machine do? Well, it just does. It lies, claims that blatantly true facts are false and that falsehoods are the truth. It tells its most dedicated base that not only are they right about everything, but those who disagree are the enemy, not just to the party, but to the very idea of America, and to you personally. And so, through this brand of doublethink, those people who stormed the Capitol yesterday, have come to entirely and fully believe that they are the righteous cause.
They believe that they are the Jesus figure, meeting his untimely and unjust crucifixion, the people storming the Bastille, the heirs to the founding fathers and protectors of the US constitution. They believe that they are at the heart of the next great and just revolution, apparently ignorant of the blatant irony that stares that idea right in the face. That the Confederacy, the single greatest act of sedition in US history, has now been co-opted by a group of rioters that believe themselves to be the heirs to Washington. That Nazism is so far removed from the Constitution that these people claim to be defending, that we must wonder if any of this deplorable outfit are familiar with constitutional law, beyond what they have been taught to believe by whichever media outfit they have allowed to teach them all they know.
Because the truth is, that these riots are predicated, not on the US constitution, but the idea that many on the right would like it to represent. That being a document that can support whatever shady scheme they want to pull off next, without becoming the un-American ones. And when the Trump administration is the definition of a sinking ship, with the rats jumping off to try and preserve what dignity and respect is left of them, that is when these schemes become shadiest. This debacle is the perfect example of that perspective of the “constitution” as seen by those rioters. Mike Pence refused to interfere in the counting and certification of Electoral College votes, because this is something that he legally, constitutionally, does not have the power to do, and yet those rioting, and the President himself, genuinely appear to believe that he does, because they have convinced themselves as such, because it is convenient to their political beliefs.
Ultimately, I wanted to write this piece, because yesterdays events brought back some feelings that I had had a few months ago when I had planned to write a short essay, called and ‘Ode to America Lost’. The storming of the capitol building, by a delusional mind screw of people, with the support of a sitting President, is the final corruption of the beautiful idea of the USA. From its first usage in a sermon by John Winthrop in 1630, America has been the “shining city on the hill”. Never perfect, but always better, and seeking to be better. A land of freedom, equality and opportunity, where a person can be who they want and have no less thought of him within the realm of the law. This was the idea of America, what it could be, and it was the source of much optimism.
But what America failed to realise, is that this philosophy and ideal isn’t something that you can just let be, its sunlight uplands and so appealing not because of the goal, but the process of getting there. It’s something that needs to be nurtured and cared for, and for the last ten years, leading conservatives have used and abused it to their own ends, at the tacit permission of liberals and moderates alike.
Now that this apathy has come back to bite, it stings because we have collectively lost the aspiration to be a better state. And it is the fault of the rich and powerful of the US establishment, that this idea, this America, has been lost.