Of all the travesties that January 6th wrought, one of the most tragic is how the events of the day created a bad name for the healthy instincts of defiance and rebellion.
At the emotional core of the Trump rebellion is the desire to seek change for a system his followers perceive as unjust. This “Question Authority” ethos has aroused passions throughout the history of humanity. But whereas the lasting rebellious movements were mass uprisings against legitimate systemic injustices — religious oppression, taxation without representation, income inequality, and racism, to name a few — the Trump movement is built on lies like QAnon, the Deep State, and the election fraud.
If the Trumpsters want to compare their siege to anything, they would be better off comparing it to the 1967 March on the Pentagon. While that march was based on a real systemic problem — namely the Vietnam War — the aim of the march was to perform an exorcism of the Pentagon and attempt to levitate it. The US Government was better prepared back then, with a ring of soldiers surrounding the building waiting for the protestors to arrive.
The aim of the Trump mob, if there was one, was equally ludicrous. This was not an armed insurrection or an organized rebellion. When Donald Trump urged his followers to march on the Capitol, he might as well have been John Belushi jumping up in the middle of the cafeteria shouting, “Food fight!” What ended up happening is the mob disrupted the business of the Congress for a few hours to snap off thousands of stupid selfies they can show their grandkids someday. It’s tragic that a few lives were lost during their overzealous frat party.
Now that the party is over, the question remains how do we make Trumpism go away? As they should, the Democratic leadership plans to hold the leaders of this movement accountable. Donald Trump should be impeached and convicted, not so much to remove him before January 20 but to ensure he can never hold political office again. Rudy Giuliani should be debarred. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Mo Brooks, and all the other Congress members who objected to the electoral certification even though they knew the results were valid should be censured. If it is election integrity they seek, they could have waited to pursue their agenda during regular Congressional sessions and not by knowingly and cynically hijacking a ceremonial procedure during a politically volatile time.
Rapping their leaders on the knuckles will only make the Trump mob madder, but they need to see that leaders get punished for perpetuating a lie, just as the Nazi leaders were punished during the Nuremberg trials.
In a sense what we are facing now is similar to the dilemma facing the Allies at the end of World War II. What do you do with the millions of True Believers, whose belief system was formed on a mountain of lies, now that the leader is gone? Denazification was introduced, a program that Dwight Eisenhower estimated would run for 50 years, but it was abandoned after five years because too many Nazis were needed to run the government and bureaucratically it was too unwieldy.
What ultimately worked in West Germany, and what will ultimately work here, is rebuilding the economy. Fixing the wrongs that the last four decades have wrought with the evisceration of the education system and the transformation to a global economy that caused millions to be left behind, many of whom went on to become ardent Trump supporters, will go a long way to restoring the norms of a liberal democracy.
But those efforts will take time and in the meantime there are millions of Jake Angelis out there who truly believe to the core of their being that they are America’s last hope against the pedophile satan worshippers, lamestream media, tech giants, and communist socialists who are trying to ruin us all.
Recognizing and validating those feelings of rage, anger, and passion — the same emotions that drove Jesus, Thomas Jefferson, Che Guevera, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and yes, Johnny Rotten — will go a long way to redirecting their energy. Instead of throwing Jake Angeli in jail, let’s throw him and his buddies into a room with a bunch of Black Lives Matter believers. Sparks will fly, but in the end they will have no choice but to have a conversation, and maybe then a ray of truth will be able to pierce the cloud of lies where their heads live, and maybe then we can begin to rebuild the trust and faith necessary to truly make America great again.
Jake Angeli — Public Domain
Johnny Rotten — “File:Sex Pistols in Paradiso — Johnny Rotten 1.jpg” by Koen Suyk; Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945–1989 — negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 928–9661 is marked with CC0 1.0
Black Lives Matter — “Black Lives Matter — We Won’t Be Silenced — London’s Oxford Circus — 8 July 2016.” by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0