by J. Sam Williams
noun: insurrection; plural noun: insurrections
a violent uprising against an authority or government.
"the insurrection was savagely put down"
In the early hours of November 10, 1898 a fire grew on the grounds of The Daily Record in Wilmington, North Carolina. This fire signaled the start of a coordinated attack by a mob of white men who targeted The Daily Record due to it being a prominent black-owned business. Alexander Manly, the owner, had been told to destroy the paper and get out of town, or the mob would do it for him.
By the end of the day 60 black residents were dead, the newspaper building had burned to the ground, and many black citizens had fled for their lives. The attack was a coordinated effort by white supremacists to remove black influence and retake political power for Democrats, the conservative party of the late 1890s, and which represented the values of white supremacists. The leader of the attack, Alfred Moore Waddell, was a former member of Congress, and would go on to become Mayor of Wilmington.
Two days prior to the coup d’etat the local government had been elected, and the Republican party, the liberal party of the era, was largely in control. Upset with the circumstances, Waddell and his mob decided to take matters into their own hands. Rather than respect a free election, they decided their values were more important. They imposed their will by force, and succeeded.
Last week we witnessed the echoes of history on a massive scale. A mob formed, masked to the world as protestors. They listened to President Trump and other conservative politicians. They heard about how the election had been stolen. They believed in lies, and spurred on by carefully worded hints and nods the mob moved towards the Capitol building. The symbol of American freedom, American dreams, American ideals.
“What happened today was an insurrection incited by the President.” - Mitt Romney
Upset with the election results, and with Democrats, America’s liberal party, taking full control of the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives these criminals rushed police and broke into the Capitol building to stop the confirmation of Joseph Biden’s Presidential win, convinced that the election had been stolen.
They battled with the Capitol Police, injuring at least 56 police officers, and killing Officer Brian D. Sicknick. Four members of the mob died, one shot by the police, the other three from “medical emergencies.” Video and photos showed mobsters being maced, having guns drawn on them. Separately officers were spotted taking selfies with the criminals, helping them down the steps of the capitol building, and observing as the mob walked around casually.
Bombs, guns, destruction of property, videos of a lone officer running as the mob rushed him - these are the acts, the symbols, the definition of terrorists and terrorism. Domestic or not, white or not, the people who attacked the Capitol were terrorists. They stormed the seat of government of the United States with the intent to overthrow the outcome of the election. Holding onto the words of a false god, thinking they bore the torch of righteousness, these terrorists tried to stage “a revolution” as one maced women said to a camera.
While many have tried, there is no comparison to the protests we have seen in relation to social issues like police brutality, or the rights of citizens based on name-a-category. While people may disagree with people exercising their freedom of speech to burn American Flags, or block highways, that can’t be compared with breaking into a government building. To those who try and compare the destruction of private property to an attempted coup - the literal attempt to overtake the government - may I introduce you to the False Equivalence logical fallacy. Someone throwing a brick through a Costco window is not the same as halting the Presidential certification to keep President Trump in power.
Apples to oranges doesn’t cover it. Apples and oranges are at least pieces of fruit. There is no similarity here. The opposition to a free and fair election is the stuff of freedom’s nightmares. To keep a President in power, even after losing an election, because the President pretends to hold onto the values you hold is not what the US Constitution protects. The Constitution upholds a government that elects representatives to make laws for us, a democratic Republic, a government that protects, in theory, the right for us to have our own religion, our own values. For citizens to rise up and attempt to force their values on other citizens by violent means is a theocracy. And as much as some Americans may want a theocracy, America, as set up by its founding documents, is not one.
The difference between someone shouting, “Black Lives Matter!” and rifling through elected leader’s offices, leaving threatening notes, breaking windows, and swapping out the American Flag for a flag that says the name of one man, is so vast that only the severely indoctrinated won’t be able to spot the contrast.
What’s worse is the President of the United States knew that this protest was scheduled. He knew that he had stirred the hearts of many to believe that Democrats were stealing the election from right under all our noses. He had access to all the information possible that indicates that such diversionary tactics, such a drive to nationalism, to the extreme, causes violence. Instead of ensuring proper methods of security to protect the presidential certification, he denied multiple requests to mobilize the National Guard. Eventually his Vice President had to take charge when the violence escalated.
Then, and only after President-elect Biden demanded it, Trump put out a message to “quell” the terrorists.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.
But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time.
There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election.
But we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated — that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.”
Trump’s message was essentially, “Not like this. Your hearts are in the right place, but this isn’t the Law and Order I campaigned on. Go home. For now. We’ll get these evil-doers later.” Trump has cast Democrats and their supporters as evil, dangerous, he’s created a scapegoat out of Americans that don’t support him, cast politicians as devil-worshipers for if they don’t support him, god, then they must support the devil, not-Trump. These attacks on the beliefs of anything other than what Trump thinks his base values are directly tied to the attacks on the Capitol.
Trump has encouraged terrorists.
Even in the midst of the terrorism he did nothing to address the cause, only the symptoms. Did Trump even condemn the terrorists? He did not. He called them special. He told them he loved them.
When Trump’s presidency started to become more of a reality, many of his would-be voters would ask this question, “What can he really do though?” We’re sitting with the fruition of his decisions as the President. We all stay inside to avoid a disease that has caused nearly 400,000 deaths in less than a year. And while we all stood still when nearly 3,000 died on 9/11 and attempted to find an immediate solution, we can’t be bothered to even believe there is an issue when over 3,000 die a day. We all watch as Americans rush fellow Americans, call them un-american, prepare to take fellow Americans hostage and fly the flag of the Confederacy, a dead and defeated enemy state of the US that tried to keep one of the most ultimate evils alive.
This is the man that so many American’s voted for. A man who leveraged division, and the misplaced anger of so many to win power for himself. And for what? To help pay his debts? To make more money for himself? Americans chose a mouthpiece for values that the man doesn’t even hold. Trump works for himself, and he said whatever he needed to grab power, to put himself in a position where he could, well, name a selfish action. The office didn’t change him. The responsibility didn’t make him a better man. There was never a magical solution for electing a narcissist who can’t accept consequences. This false god has been exposed as the biggest loser in American history. Unfortunately, what he’s rekindled won’t die with the end of his Presidency.
Nationalism, White Supremacy, Manifest Destiny, the usurping of American Patriotism, this is part of American History that we all must reckon with in order to heal, and to build a better future. Our country started with slavery as a major economic resource to help build our infrastructure. Any country that starts out this way must do some real reckoning. There are so many mistakes to see. We must take off our blinders and stop putting new ones on our children. We must learn about events like the Wilmington coup, the Tulsa bombing, the lynching in the 1920s. We must see the correlation of how the end of slavery led to the mass incarceration of black men and women to keep them enslaved legally, how this has led to a history of police brutality towards black people and a deep seeded mistrust. We must see the relation to today’s social movements, where black people are asking that we just value their lives as much as anyone else, that we can say the simple sentence, “Black lives matter.” Where is the lie in that phrase if we truly value all life? We must see the double standards when protestors gather to expose police brutality and are met with force, while white people can break in to the Capitol Building and, in the words of Michele Obama, “...once the authorities finally gained control of the situation, these rioters and gang members were led out of the building not in handcuffs but free to carry on with their days.” Can we not see the evil in this? These people committed egregious crimes and were led away. Over this summer we saw mass arrests. Where were these mass arrests on Capitol Hill?
Trump has virtue signaled White Supremacy right back into the forefront of society. Supremacists have such strong convictions that they felt like they could start a revolution and not face consequences. Largely they did not. They marched on Capitol Hill and left Capitol Hill. Four casualties is a light price to pay for actual revolutions, just ask any revolutionary in Europe whose head lies in the bottom of a basket of revolutions past. Time will tell how many of these poor excuses of revolutionists are arrested.
We will be dealing with the repercussions of the Trump presidency for decades. White supremacists, domestic terrorists, they have this figurehead to assign a twisted form of martyrdom too. They see this as the forces of evil winning. Why? Trump told them so. And unfortunately there are so many whose faith has been usurped by the idea of Trump. Somehow Trump has convinced many Christians that Trump trumps Christ. Republicanism for some has become an idolatry and those in power have become gods. And these new gods have the ability to convince the masses of obvious lies, providing “alternative facts.” A new form of politics is born and it is here to stay. Look at the certification of Biden’s win. A handful of politicians still went through with challenging the election even after witnessing first hand what undermining a free election does.
So the ideas that Trump trumpets survive. Fraudulent elections, evil democrats, fear for losing an America that never existed. But the President is also still the President. He resides in the White House, he still has command of the Armed Forces. It’s a small amount of time, granted, but what kind of message are we sending if a President can inspire insurrection and remain in office, one command from accessing nuclear codes. Our government is sending the message that it is too hard to remove such a dangerous presence, and that even when the embers of a civil war spark, political wins in 2022 are more important for the GOP than condemning the leader of their own party, the man who is responsible for all of this.
To the citizens who voted for Trump because he supports conservative values, this is a moment for you to reassess your priorities and reconcile your perspective on life. Insurrection, violence, death, the tearing down of American ideals for one man, is it worth it for whatever policy you wanted? Is it worth it for stacked courts? For harder immigration? For tax benefits? Think on this, because you who voted for Trump enabled this.
Our politicians have a moral duty to remove a dangerous man. The 25th amendment or a second impeachment work. Our citizens have a moral duty to speak up and demand the removal of dangerous ideology from our government. It is so important that we squish this insurrection as firmly as possible. This is a moment where we can pursue both sides of Machiavelli’s recommendation. We can rule by fear by squashing all manner of white supremacy, spoken or unspoken, removing the means to messaging, condemning it at all levels, while also ruling with love, by listening to legitimate concerns of wealth inequality, drug ravaged communities, and a future that will continue to abandon blue collar work. We cannot forget that our students are watching, the young minds being molded by every moment in this debacle. If we allow Trump to stay in office, if we allow politicians to be moved by ideas of “all is fair in love and politics” then we will face waves like this again and again.
We must reconcile what happened at the Capitol. We have an opportunity to see America for what it is, to see the duality between white people’s experience and POC’s experience. This is not a moment to let past, to allow true evil, lies, deceit, selfishness, to run back to its layer, yelping from a slight slap on the wrist. We must weed out what allowed the insurrection to occur. We must work to eradicate the intolerance and animosity of White Supremacy, otherwise it might be Nov 10th 2098 when my great-grandchild writes about how an attempted Coup happened again down in Wilmington.
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