It is 2021, the United States has a new president and a huge swath of the American people believe that new president was elected nefariously.
Trump’s team filed 86 lawsuits against the outcome of the election. They lost all but one of those cases and that case was thrown out by the Supreme Court of the state in which it was tried (via Politico, 11.12.2020). Trump was recorded attempting to pressure the Georgian Secretary of State to find 11,780 votes. When all of this was unsuccessful, he took to social media and his bully pulpit to rouse his supporters to action (via Reuters, 01.03.2021).
Additionally, Michael Flynn called on the president to suspend the Constitution, silence the press, and under coercive military authority force the swing states Trump had lost to hold a new election. (via The Independent, 03.12.2020) When the US Homeland Department Director of Cyber Security Chris Krebs declared the election the most secure election in modern times Trump’s attorney Joseph diGenova called for his execution. Fortunately, he was only fired for doing successfully doing his job. (via CNN, 02.12.2020)
As I type, there are National Guard still stationed at the federal capital, Washington D.C. The plan is to keep them in the capital “drawing down to 5,000 by mid-March” (via DCist, 01.23.2021) My friend was one of those stationed there for the inauguration but has since been sent back to his family in upstate New York. Why were there National Guard at the US Capitol in Washington DC?!
On January 6th 2021.
A protest that turned into an insurrection.
Some of those in attendance clearly had planned all along to storm the House of Congress, some folks just got swept up in the madness of the moment.
Five people died, at least 60 capital police were seriously injured and many of our elected officials felt their lives were in danger (via The Guardian, 01.08.2020).
I mean, it is laughable, albeit criminal, that the former President of the United States wanted, needed, threatened, begged, and cajoled the Governor of Georgia to find roughly 11, 000 votes. Stark proof of the sort of act that his many failed lawsuits against Biden would have needed to show to get anywhere in court. But the fact that people believed so strongly that he should still be president, despite mountains of evidence proving otherwise, a mob stormed the capital and five people died. It is mind-boggling.
Five people died.
Our congresspeople were terrified for their lives.
The mob shouted “Kill Mike Pence”, intended to do so, as well as Nancy Pelosi (via Newsweek, 01.15.2021)
What about this is normal?!
Weeks later and everyday we learn more about the people involved that day.
Many of the politicians that supported the ‘Stop the Steal’ protests in the first place are now calling for their colleagues to move on, especially concerning the degree to which former President Trump was involved, after their lives were threatened.
Would you simply move on?
I know comparisons to Hitler have to generally be taken with a grain of salt, as that traditionally signals the death of the argument in question thanks to the extremeness of his position and actions.
However, I live in Germany.
German schools still teach the atrocities leading up to and during World War II to never have those actions repeated. The rest of the world, especially the United States, should take note.
In retrospect, now I understand why Germany still takes this topic so very seriously. I did previously think that maybe the German people could allow themselves a little forgiveness for still carrying this. Oh, boy. Now I can’t believe I thought that. I am also embarrassed that I had had to witness America going through her darkness to see why the Germans still carry this baggage to this day.
And still, despite Germany’s vast education about perpetuating the horrors leading up to and especially during the Second World War, last year German authorities discovered a secret WhatsApp group of Western German police officers sharing literal nazi texts and images (via The Guardian, 09.17.2020). This was not in the East, which is stereotyped as where the ‘bad seeds’ profligate, nope this was in Nord-Rhein Westphalia, in the WEST. Ultimately, the problem proved even larger including both the German military and intelligence. And this isn’t isolated to Germany either. Yes, I am looking at you America (via The Brennen Center for Justice, 08.27.2020), but it isn’t America’s problem, alone (via Foreign Affairs, 12.15.2020). According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in the last six years, the United States has seen a harrowing uptick in violent far-right extremism.
There are also a few classic and modern books on the subject of a Hitler-esque figure taking hold in America some more entertaining than others, but all still rather chilling if you allow yourself to stop and think about it. Last year I muddled through Upton Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here and breeze through the terrifyingly thoughtful On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. One I haven’t read is Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America or even They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45 by Milton Sanford Mayer. While the latter are definitely on my Goodread’s ‘want to read’ list, after reading Sinclair’s and Snyder’s books, and living through the 45th presidency, I needed a bit of a break.
So, what now?
Once the main social media giants started getting after far-right supporters and their leaders for spreading lies and hate, because they could finally see the writing on the wall – a Biden Harris victory meant all this BS was going to be bad for business, those that supported and shared QAnon’s blah ideas fled or were forced from Twitter and Facebook to Parler, the new social media darling that was just a few years old. Parler espoused freedom of speech but was a hotbed for far-right extremism, conspiracy peddling, anti-semitism, and inciting violence. Its users had to verify their identities with drivers’ licenses and passports. This platform was one that was heavily used to plan the January 6th attack on the capital (via USA Today, 02.01.2021). Shortly after the capital attack Google and Apple removed the app from their online catalogs. Then, the app’s host platform, Amazon, suspended its service availability.
The App sued Amazon, but a judge ruled in favor of Amazon. The company is currently challenging the ruling. The app’s users have either migrated back to more traditional social media sites or on to new ones. One, in particular, is Gab, which will possibly be Parler’s successor in inciting and organizing domestic terrorism. I say this because the site was launched in 2016, then became public in 2017. Almost immediately it came under fire for not moderating antisemitic posts. The Russian Internet Research Agency, you know, the group that is tied to interfering with the 2016 Presidential election in the US, has also used this platform (among others) to spread misinformation (via Washington Post, 10.08.2020). And, it turns out Gab was used extensively by the Pittsburg Synagog shooter (via The New York Times, 10.28.2018), which brought more like-minded folks onto the platform when this information was published and the platforms desire for all voices to be heard and not policed has led to far-right groups grooming and recruiting within its exchanges. Individuals and groups who participated in the insurrection on January 6th used Gab and Parler (via The New York Times, 01.21.2021).
What is the point of living collectively in society, of the social contract, if we don’t agree to basic, fundamental aspects of our shared experience? Holding fair elections, where win or lose; we can all deal with results without calling for backsies is just the start. I also believe that governments should provide their people with clean water, as that is a fundamental necessity for life. It can cost a small fee, but not be exorbitant, because it needs to be purified and safe for consumption. I believe the police should protect everyone. Also that health care should not be a for-profit enterprise, built on the backs of the sick and the dying or those fearful of sickness and death. Radical, I know.
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. […]But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”– Karl Popper, 1945
What is the point of ‘free speech’ when those yelling the loudest shut out or harass the others into silence? That isn’t providing a seat at the table for everyone. That’s just bullying. Being politically correct, I have come to learn as an adult means to not makes jokes or comments about others that deride their race, religion, country of origin, gender, sexuality, or ability. This, I think, has been extended to literal facts, like proven historical events. These historical events help shape our history and our culture. To deny their existence is to deny people’s personal experiences leading up to, during, or after these events. If these facts are to then be considered ‘fake’ or ‘alternative’ or ‘mainstream lies’ what is the point of it all anyway?
This Twitter thread, by Michael B. Tager, from July 2020, exemplifies this new paradox in my opinion.
I guess I am still trying to figure out what the hell is going on and why exactly it began to unfold in the first place.
I don’t believe our collective history will be kind to the memories of those involved, to those that caused so much pain and even death, nor to those that supported it. No matter how dark periods of our existence have been, historically history sides with the light, with knowledge, with progress.
It saddens me that our cumulative response to the protests against police brutality of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) was more police brutality, across the nation. I know this is the first time I am bringing up the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, but I do think there is a link between the reaction of the collective American police and right-leaning media against BLM as opposed to the coverage and lack of violence perpetrated against right-wing, machine gun-carrying protests and occupations, which link back to the ingrained white-supremacy in the ranks of the American police. This is a contrast that I have not made alone. Watching or reading news coverage of the various events for Trump, or Stop the Steal compared to BLM in 2020 alone will show this contrast, but you can also look to this National Public Radio (NPR) interview from January 11, 2021, or to this Washington Post article from January 13, 2021.
It saddens me that people consider ANTIFA, which is literally an unorganized group of people who believe in anti-fascism is a hate group the likes of the KKK and its more modern offspring.
It saddens me that these far-right groups no longer wear hoods, and the racists and antisemites have learned to blend in with the rest of society. They’re nice enough. They look like our neighbors, our coaches, our law enforcement officers, our teachers, or mechanics, our gym instructors, anyone in every part of the country (via The Washington Post, 01.13.2021).
This is because this is exactly who they are now.
So, I sit here pondering a country that is struggling to come to terms with its present, let alone its past, in the land that is still grappling with its past, thinking about punching nazis and tattling on the right-wing extremist next door not because big brother tells you to fear everyone, even yourself, but because you literally fear for yourself and your community.
I also understand that I have used literally far too much in this post, but nowhere did I mean it figuratively.