Please stop saying “this is not who we are.”
My title is a pun on a Dungeons & Dragons term, for readers who may not be familiar. A “saving throw” is a die roll you make in response to an attack, to discover how much damage has been done to you. The die roll is compared to an “ability score” that indicates how much capacity you have to handle the particular type of attack. Constitution, in game terms, is health and vibrancy (like saying a hardy person has “a strong constitution”). So the pun is really quite perfect as a descriptor of what is happening — what has to happen — now in America. (Hat tip to my friend David Abzug, not on this platform, from whom I heard it first.) The country is under attack, and its constitution, by every definition, is looking pretty weak right now.
The events of January 6 were a defining moment in our history. The response of our so-called “leaders” and those who swore oaths to defend our Constitution from all threats foreign and domestic was an absolute disgrace.
It was also absolutely predictable.
I feel a strong need to slap every person who goes on camera or social media and says with a straight face, “who could have seen this coming?” Um. DUH. If you have a Twitter account or have not been under a rock for the last four years, this was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. This president was a sociopath in 2016, and he lost his last marble on November 3, and there was nothing, I repeat, NOTHING about the events of January 6 that was not clearly foreseeable and largely preventable. The problem is, until January 6, the people who held all the power were actively participating in the seditious rhetoric that led to it.
Which is why I also feel a strong need to slap every person who says with a straight face, “this is not who we are in America.” I’m sorry, but the regrettable reality is that this is EXACTLY who we are. We are a selfish, greedy, hate-filled nation of white supremacists who take our fragile system of government for granted. Those of us who are not crazy or stupid enough to storm the citadels of democracy for fun and selfies, are also apparently not brave enough to prevent others from doing so. Our “law enforcement” shows up by the hundreds in riot gear, with rubber bullets and tear gas, to a peaceful demonstration by Black people. But when the armed white terrorists mob the steps of the Capitol, they literally open the barricades to let them in. (Note: this link goes to a story that explains what actually happened, and I nevertheless stand by my statement. That they were not prepared for this absolutely predictable onslaught is the grossest sort of dereliction of duty on the part of the people giving the orders, but the end result is the same. You pledged to defend the Constitution. When it came down to brass tacks, you caved.)
Too many white people believe one of two things about other white people. They either believe that the terrorists are “patriots” and support the January 6 insurrection, or they have so deeply embraced the idea of white supremacy that they cannot see white people as a threat, no matter how incendiary their rhetoric, no matter how bizarrely they dress or how many guns they carry. That second group honestly did not expect this “demonstration” to turn violent despite having every opportunity to see it coming. They honestly believed that this was all just talk, that American democracy is bulletproof, that they’d wave their flags and swear and maybe vandalize a few walls but not really hurt anything or anyone. Because these terrorists are white, everybody could convince themselves that this was not a “credible threat.”
Well, guess what. These “peaceful protesters” were literally one minute away from being able to open fire in the Senate chamber. At least one unlocked laptop containing classified information is missing. At least one detainee needed a Russian interpreter. This is serious shit, boys and girls. These people may have looked, acted and sounded like a bad cover band of the Village People, but what they have taught us — and our enemies both foreign and domestic — is that we’re totally cool with having a narcissistic sociopath as our leader, we are too naive to believe him when he calls for an armed insurrection, and we can’t be bothered to properly protect our government buildings and elected officials when the insurrection attempt occurs.
This IS who we are, America. And until we own that, come to grips with it, and, as they say at Alcoholics Anonymous, admit that we have a problem, nothing is going to change.