This post was originally written on 7 January 2021, the day after the insurrectionist invasion of the United States Capitol, and has only been edited for grammar and clarity – not content. The content preserves a moment of confused anger and pain following the events of the day prior – perhaps an attempt to better understand or process emotion in the moment.
We find ourselves in this country engaged in a civil war unlike any we have experienced before. A cold war waged between the proponents of a democratic republic and the forces of oppression who seek to reverse the changes of the past few centuries. The latter have appropriated the use of patriotic symbols for their cause as a form of visual justification. They call themselves patriots and Americans, but their espoused intentions match little, if anything found in the Constitution or our Bill of Rights. Their vision of America is an imagined one in a past where the supremacy of a particular group of people remained unchecked and unchallenged. For all the constitutionalist rhetoric and claims of being the party of “law and order,” their intentions are toward a society where laws are made for the convenience of the few, to the detriment of the many, an all but lawless state of laissez-faire rules and enforcement. They do not seem interested in the rule of Federal law, the preservation of our Union, or the equitable treatment of individuals who are not one of their number. They verge on the point of anarchy, but an anarchy based in the capitalist model of power borne out of wealth and not inherited by virtue of citizenship. Their interpretation is not the Constitution or even the Articles of Confederation, and it can barely be said to be American. These people seek the dissolution of authority in favor of the rule of gut-reaction mob rule.
My first acquaintance with politics came in the final months of the first Bush administration, just after the victorious return of American forces from the Gulf War. We were a military family: my father was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, surrounded by the awe and gravitas of more than two centuries of service and circumstance. I proudly watched as my father left for Desert Shield and, later, Restore Hope in Somalia. I looked forward to the playing of retreat and the immediate stop of all activities across the base – the very world itself seemed to have come to a standstill as we all stood in reverence of the symbol of our nation being lowered. We stopped and stood silent in respect for those who had lost their lives in her defense, and those who continued to stand before her and serve her. The United States of America was my country, and I would defend her with my last dying breath.
In those days I could not be even coaxed to expand my thinking, to consider alternative narratives to the history of my country. I believed that the draft was a necessary evil in the past, one which I actively believed should be reinstated and applied to all Americans, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc., just as in Israel. All should serve their country so that we might all have some stake in her success. I remember actively hoping for the reelection of George H.W. Bush, but coming around to the idea of Bill Clinton after decisive – if not always successful – military action in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Only later would I realize how much was left undone, e.g. Rwanda and Palestine. In 2000 I supported the return of the Bush name to the White House, and was an outspoken proponent for the immediate and overwhelming use of force against Osama bin Laden in particular, and al-Qaida and the Taliban generally. All of fifteen years old and full of the bloodthirsty desire for revenge, I envied the privilege afforded 5th Group and the Rakkassans when they were sent to Afghanistan to find and kill those responsible for 9/11. I raged at the notion that I would have to wait another three years to take part myself, to teach those motherfuckers what it means to attack my country.
And then President Bush decided to go to war with Iraq, and everything changed.
Point blank: There was no empirical data tying Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist regime to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Nothing. And even the excuse of weapons of mass destruction or of harboring terrorists, even in those days, felt wrong and even falsified – a fact we know now to be true. There was nothing to the invasion of Iraq than the vengeful spirit of an America not sated by the war in Afghanistan, whose thirst for the blood of bin Laden would be quenched by the blood of Iraqis. America was not seeking justice, it was not seeking the preservation of liberty or security: we were out for revenge. This feeling came to be expressed on the silver screen in Ridley Scott’s 2001 Black Hawk Down. We needed catharsis, and rather than face the trauma of what had happened, we focused our anger on our very own Carthage – Iraq delenda est.
When I spoke my concern – my protestation that we were being led down the wrong path, that an invasion of Iraq would do little to nothing for what happened on 9/11, and that we should seek to strengthen our resolve against the fugitive bin Laden and al-Qaida – I was accused of being weak, spineless, but most of all, unpatriotic. I was told that if I didn’t support the war then I supported terrorism, that I was un-American and a traitor.
I was heartbroken.
How dare they call me that? How dare they, on the premise of anger, try to make reasoned and logical decisions when everything – everything – said that war with Iraq was not the right course of action, that it would not lead to a more secure future. I was now a pariah, looked down upon by people I had considered heroes of the highest order. My father’s boss, a minister, questioned and berated me for a lack of willingness to go forth and create violence – that pacifism was wrong. And I was not a pacifist – and yet I found myself pigeonholed into that role by the mere contrast of my opinion against those around me, and found myself among the few who was in favor of an expansion of the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan and Uzbekistan. If we had the gumption to invade a country without provocation and thereby implement a coup d’état, then we surely could have, at minimum, strong-armed our way into entering Waziristan and the rest of the Tribal Areas.
Small wonder we later found bin Laden in Abbottabad – not Baghdad.
I had been repulsed by the country I loved, and though those who are not affected by crisis or adversity through the privilege of wealth, race, gender, or class may have said that I should simply move on and get over it, they betrayed the reality of their thinking. It was then and there that I realized that the most outspoken among our patriots were those with the least interest in the preservation of true equality and the conservation of equal protection under the law. They were uninterested in the plight of their fellow Americans, and more than once I have heard criticism by whites leveled against their black American siblings of needing to pull themselves up by their boot straps – that they should have evacuated (despite being unable to) ahead of Hurricane Katrina. I had seen the beating of Rodney King on TV and its aftermath while we lived in California, and had awed at the magnanimity of Dr. King when I was first taught about him in Kindergarten – and raged against those responsible for his assassination. But for those around me, such things were considered past troubles, and even if some of those troubles remained into the present, the ever-ready call of not my problem resounds among their number. If it does not affect them negatively, it does not affect them at all – and damned be anyone else who is not so well equipped to handle humanity’s ire.
These same people – patriots and lovers of our country – turned against her once more, when they saw their positions being threatened through the election of an outsider, one of the others. It comes as no surprise that these sorts of people would continue to espouse the lie that President Obama was not an American citizen well after the question had long since been answered. Not since the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln has an individual in the august office of the President of the United States been so disrespected and blatantly abused by other Americans. What shame was brought on all Americans from the disgusting messaging that came out of the Tea Party, Three Percenters, NRA, and other far-right organizations – to say nothing of the President’s treatment by members of the GOP. It was then that we saw the true underbelly of the American psyche revealed fully, surfaced by an inbred hatred of centuries, permitted to live on by the machinations of former Confederates and spineless Unionists amid the failure of Reconstruction and the creation of the apartheid era of Jim Crow and “Separate but Equal,” eras from which we have yet to fully recover even today. The hatred and bigotry of those past centuries lives on, stoked by the false patriotism of cowards and bigots – and their patrons within the Republican Party.
And here I have no qualms stating the facts as they are. As I told a former significant other many years ago, the Republican Party of the post-war era is the party of backward-looking values (“social conservatism”), economic subordination (“trickle down economics”), and the rule of convenient laws. Look only at the way the Republicans yesterday withdrew their objections to the Electoral College vote to see clearly that the posturing of such individuals is only for the convenience of their own way of thinking, the expediency of their own agenda, and the advancement of their station. This laissez-faire attitude towards politics encourages the same avarice of wealth in the metastasizing of political power derived from economic station – that the wealthy might make the rules so that the employed might stay in line. To this end these individuals have now brought upon our republic among the greatest calamities which can befall free and liberal societies such as our own. The explosion of armed violence in the Capitol Building of the United States of America is not the last gasp of these sorts of people that many believe, but is instead the opening volleys of a coming cold war within our country – a cold civil war, one in which a war will be fought on the battlefields of electioneering and balloting, and where violence appears in the places most hallowed at the cost of innocent lives.
We are all now combatants in the greatest struggle of our time. The very foundation of our republic is now at risk of crumbling and being coopted by the likes of domestic terrorists, bigots, and racists – empowered in no small part through the patronage of such prominent Republicans as Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove, Ted Cruz, Richard Spencer, and – most of all – Donald J. Trump. We must now endeavor to rescue our republic, participating in every election at every level – and never once losing sight of the “city upon a hill” to which we aspire.
Though a storm awaits us, our greatest days are yet to come.
May God bless America.