In November of 2020, I read an article by Indi Samarajiva. (It was not the specific article I’ve linked to here, and his commentary has been updated since the events of January 6th, 2020, but you can still get the gist of his message.)
I read it, read a couple more pieces by the author to get a sense of his mindset and personality, and mentally filed it away.
It wasn’t that I thought the author was entirely wrong, but Sri Lanka, his home, had been through one of the bloodiest sectarian wars of the 20th Century, and they were still more than willing to kill each other in significant numbers in the present day, even though the reasoning behind such violence was somewhat, but not entirely, different from the logic of that nation’s recent past.
Did I of think America as immune, given its history of violence in response to our periodic public declarations for and actions toward combating racism, classism, or misogyny? No. Did I think the Trump regime was going to go quietly into the night in the event that Trump and Pence were defeated for reelection? No.
Nor did I consider them reasonable folks, given, above all else, that they, through their deliberate mismanagement (or deliberate lack of management – I would say some of each) of the COVID-19 pandemic, were responsible for between 700,000 and one million deaths in the United States.
What I expected was something on the order of the eventually aborted recount of votes in 2000 in Florida, just on a larger scale, with the threat of violence a never-ending miasma to force us into submission.
(The former happened, sorta, but incredibly, horribly, cringe-ably badly for their side. The latter has been in play since, wherever his supporters think they can bend people to their will in pretending that COVID-19 isn’t the dangerous viral pandemic it is, and in a more extreme sense, through the QAnon conspiracy cult.)
I did not expect, on January 6th, to be constantly recycling the Twitter page of Igor Bobic as an act of violent insurrection struck the grounds of, and then within, the Capitol Building itself. I did not expect, on January 6th, to see video of various members of the Capitol Police commiserate with the insurrectionists, and other members of the Capitol Police literally save the lives of both Vice President Pence and Senator Schumer by mere steps.
I did not expect, on January 6th, to read of members of Congress in hiding, that other members of Congress may have provided the means to facilitate finding those in hiding, and of plainclothes Capitol security behind hastily assembled barricades in the House Chamber, guns drawn if a breach was attempted by the insurrectionists. But the warning signs were there.
Progressives can no longer rely on old political, societal, or governmental norms, resulting shame for violating said norms, or a judiciary that has become too far removed from the realities of how racism, classism and misogyny exist in our time, to restrain an opposition willing to cast aside all norms and legal precedents as is necessary to achieve and permanently retain power.
We must be willing to do the difficult, often brutal, sometimes dangerous work necessary to effectively address and remedy over time, often piecemeal, the difficult times in which we now live. We must effectively organize together — and mobilize together — to protect our democracy.
This is something that Richard Rorty, who I believe has one of the best senses of comprehending, as a political philosopher of the American left, has written about. Rorty has discussed where we are headed and what needs to be done at the metaphorical level to advance the great American Experiment.
I suspect that I, like Rorty, will not be around to see us eventually rise above these dark, dangerous and delicate times. But I hope that we all take heed of what he has to say and act accordingly.