Actions and Consequences

Ed Zitron 4 min read

I had another thing written today, which will go out tomorrow, which has very little to do with anything important happening today. I’m also arrogantly assuming the news cycle will have moved on from what’s happened today, with conservatives storming the capitol building, with a President encouraging them, with the Vice President being hidden away along with the rest of congress, and what astounds me is that I, somehow, didn’t think this was possible.

Even with all the egregious shit that Trump has said to his followers, even with years of QAnon conspiracies and threats of a storm of some sort, even with protests happening, today is shocking because something in my brain (and I’d argue others’ brains) never quite believed that the Very Obvious Thing that had been quite clearly threatened actually happened. Despite the Proud Boys and other racist ghouls patrolling outside peaceful protests with giant guns that they’d liberally flag people with I somehow believed, foolishly, like a rube, that this would never spill into anything else.

I feel as if the last four years have been an exercise in believing that things could never escalate beyond a certain level of “bad,” a goalpost that was continually moved and advanced to different places. My brain for some reason had adjusted to believe that there would be a line left uncrossed - perhaps that these people that had made violent threats, that had used violent rhetoric, that had acted violently all up to the point of actual violence, that they were simply cowards. This is despite the critical amount of evidence that suggests that this was a when not an if - that a country would obviously explode like this with relatively unrestricted firearm sales, with revolutionary rhetoric embedded deeply in nationalism, with a president that appealed to a core of white Americans that are furious at the idea that they have to consider others’ beliefs and that any potential hegemonic shift is a cause for uprising.

And, of course, the people in power that see their citizens as only conduits to power, objects to manipulate and antagonize and scare into doing what they need them to do. The republican party - and I have seen no evidence that this is necessarily a shift in strategy - saw the opportunity to appeal to a new base, to push further into the realms of racism and nationalism and xenophobia, something they already willingly have done for decades and now had an audience and a leader that was saying the quiet part out loud. They needed to hear it. And hear it they did. While the republican party has not, at least in my lifetime (I was never taught much American history), been “good,” these last few years saw them be even more public with their true disdain for their base, choosing to say the right things to give these people something to blame their lives’ failings on. Be mad at cancel culture. Be mad at Black Lives Matter. It’s the democrats who somehow aren’t helping you, despite the republicans being in power. Your own vote didn’t cause this, they did. The language of us versus them isn’t new, and it isn’t remotely new to the republicans, but it became the unity point of what some will call Trumpism, but what people who remember what happened more than 2 minutes ago will call The Modern Republican Party.

All of this - since 9/11 onwards - has been building to something like this. The republican party stopped becoming about a lack of big government or whatever lie someone who still votes for them says it was - it stands for the erosion of social safety nets and the destruction of actual personal liberty by burdening our most vulnerable populations with debt. Republicans and democrats have been complicit in bulking up defense budgets and tying militarism to patriotism, preferring the idea of war to the idea of true peace, a peace where people don’t fear being shot dead for being black or dying because they don’t have health insurance or becoming homeless because they can’t pay rent because they can’t go to a job because of a pandemic.

And we’ve let them blame the problems not on them, the people who can actually fix them and work out ways to make America equitable, but on ourselves, or other races. We have let the republican party tell a huge chunk of white America that the vicious liberal is the reason that they lost the election, and that liberal likes to do gender identity and that the only way to fix them is to kill them, and that’s why the police fired on those protestors. We have let people believe that the reason that someone doesn’t make it in America is a lack of hard work, not a system that works against them, and that when people protest they’re ungrateful, and that people just want the government to give them handouts when they “don’t deserve them,” despite meritocratic thinking around fucking welfare being an insane, barbaric way of looking at things.

And America voted in a guy who told them to go nuts, and to actually use all the violence that American culture and American thinking had taught them. War connected to patriotism, patriotism connected to “doing what’s right,” regardless of who it hurts, because “that’s what America is,” without even defining what America actually is beyond the “fighting for vague things because things made someone mad.” Unchecked violence, unchecked violent rhetoric, an abyss bereft of empathy built on a mutual political understanding that holding power was really all that mattered, and a populace that has had the shit kicked out of it for decades. And someone told the worst of us that if things didn’t go their way, smashing shit was the right thing to do, because it’s unfair, it’s all so fucking unfair, and the reason is that people won’t listen to Donald Trump, and it’s nothing to do with America itself.


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