I was worried about January 6th. Like, really worried. Like, texting-other-people-to-share-my-worry worried. (On the plus side, who doesn't love getting a civics lesson on what January 6th even is via anxious text?)
I've worried aloud about a coup.
But I still had not envisioned angry (mostly) white (mostly) men storming the Capitol. I hadn't envisioned the Capitol Police removing the barricades to let the insurrectionists in and holding the doors to let the insurrectionists out.
I hadn't imagined that there would be men in costume breaking into the inner sanctum of our nation's democracy. (Though it *definitely* came as no surprise that they defiled the Speaker's office and destroyed all things they could find related to the history of women in power.)
I hadn't pictured current and former elected officials from states across the nation with pseudonymous social media accounts like Modern Day General Patton posting proud photos of their role in the carnage. (Though, I read Jesus & John Wayne and the absurd idol worship of Braveheart and General Patton and John Wayne. So, again, I *should* have pictured it.)
I hadn't realized the extent to which fancy (white) rich ladies would hop on private jets and join in the "fun." (Though, my extended family includes a lady who fits that appalling description, so I'm not sure why I didn't. Plus, have you seen who goes to Sturgis? Same kind of realtors and accountants and money managers who were at the Capitol LARP-ing revolution.)
AND. YET. I still didn't entirely conceive of what actually transpired on Wednesday. And what has happened (or not) since.
I didn't believe that the crazy caucus in the House would double down after the coup attempt. That US Senators—including the first-ever woman to represent the Equality State—would follow suit.
I should have.
Call it a failure of imagination.
Because, legit, this has been one of America’s worst weeks. There really isn’t any other way to say it. And we all should have seen it coming.
Not to mention that it was the deadliest week to date in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The national jobs report revealed an increasingly fragile economy. (Both the public health and the economic crises have disproportionately affected women, Black, indigenous, and Latinx communities. We learned Friday that EVERY. SINGLE. JOB. LOSS. IN. DECEMBER. WAS. A. WOMAN. Every single one.)
And all of this is nearly forgotten in the face of Wednesday's attempted coup.
More than 4,000 deaths from coronavirus EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And we barely talk about it. Women in the U.S. losing jobs at an unprecedented rate. A blip on our collective radar.
Because the democracy itself is in existential peril.
Somehow, we're not really talking about how close we came to a successful coup. We were perilously close to losing the elected officials who are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the line of succession—"losing" of course being a euphemism for murder in this case.
We were moments away from the destruction of the ballot boxes and the ballots themselves. (Rescued by a quick thinking woman, of course.) Speaker Pelosi's floor manager Keith Stern said, "If they’d been stolen or destroyed, to be honest, I don’t know what happens." We're not really talking about that, either.
Somehow, those who literally and physically threatened our democracy tried (and continue to try) to fashion themselves as "Patriots."
Somehow, Liz Cheney became the water bearer for the morally hard work of speaking truth: “We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent us from carrying out our Constitutional duty. There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
Somehow, we have accepted the fracturing of our core ideals. Truth is now truths. Freedom is now freedoms. They are now a menu and you just pick the ones you like. For the insurrectionists, they have become a litmus test. The insurrectionists will threaten those who don't pick the "right" ones. But the insurrectionists also don't see some of us as fully human. So, for some of us—women, Jews, Muslims, BIPOC, immigrants, the disabled—it doesn't matter what we pick or if we believe in the core, founding principles of truth and freedom. Because, for them, it was never *really* about the Constitution. It was always about the (perceived) loss of status.
That is why they flew the Confederate flag in front of the portrait of an Abolitionist.
To them, some of us are not entitled to our full humanity.
It is not a coincidence that they were mostly white, mostly men. The syncretism of militant Christian nationalism and the cult of toxic masculinity has made each component more powerful. The cult of toxic masculinity has been ascendent since before the election of this President—and he has been its most pure expression.
In my column about COVID-19 and the cult of toxic masculinity, I pushed back—too lightly, tbh—on the Scott Clems of the world who would endanger everyone around them in support of the militant masculinity of white Christian nationalism.
They have, as Orwell put it, persuaded themselves that their side is the strongest. "Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also—since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself—unshakably certain of being in the right."
They are dangerous. They are complicit. They do not get a pass.
"They do not get a pass. Every single Republican who did not vote to impeach this president. Every single one who overlooked his racism, his ableism, his misogyny because it benefited them politically—they are just as complicit as the president, as the men whose fists broke Capitol glass. Americans have short memories and an appetite for a shallow hero. And I am afraid we will forget. We’ll let these men and women whitewash their reputations; hide their rot behind Botox, nice suits, and glossy hair."
So that is the imperative.
We must not forget.
We must hold the guilty accountable.
We must do the hard work of finding truth and protecting freedom.
We must have the courage to speak.
And, as Sister Helen Prejean says, "Our moral challenge is to work out of hope. Hope is an active verb. We cannot be paralyzed and overwhelmed by what is going on around us."