To many of us survivors of civil war, yesterday’s clip introduction of evidence related to the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol was particularly traumatic as we were reminded of the very nightmares we have escaped and desperately tried to leave behind, to forget and move on hoping to rebuild a life of boring normalcy. But terror has a way of reaching for you no matter the decades and the physical distance, breaching your defenses, stoking long-forgotten horrors to better choke the breath out of you, and forcing you back into the sounds of angry mobs, the smell of war, the shock of chaos, and the torment of living constantly under the threat of violence. And none of us wish such nightmares on Americans or anyone else.
Many who hadn’t experienced such trauma were for the first time feeling the increasing panic while watching those nine condensed minutes depict the attack on the U.S. Capitol, feeling that slow mounting and unrelenting threat taking a hold of your gut while the white supremacist mob was being stoked into a frenzy and pushed into overthrowing democracy in service of a mendacious treasonous conman. And many Americans watching the evidence unfold came to the harrowing realization just how many lives were in danger that day, and how America as you have known and loved her came very close to an end.
Here’s the full clip, take the time to watch it closely:
At first, you’re so engrossed by the recounting of the sequence of events leading towards the attack on the U.S. Capitol, watching the genius juxtaposition of Trump stoking the crowd at his rally – specifically commanding them to go to the Capitol and give some of the weak Republicans help – and Mitch McConnell at that very same time inside the Capitol finally condemning Trump’s beliefs in conspiracy theories; you’re so intently watching these everyday Americans, these neighbors of yours, community members of yours, family members of yours, that you miss the little details building towards the specific intent of committing heinous acts of war until it’s too late and you’re there with the chaos of the mob inside the Capitol chanting “No Trump, No Peace”, destroying everything on sight, breaching doors, and hunting for members of Congress.
And then you see these members of Congress, these women, these People of Color crouching in fear and you realize the sounds they must have heard that day; the anger of the mob flooding the hallways, the violence riding high on its will to strip people of their humanity and spill their blood in vengeance for daring to stand-up to white supremacy. Imagine if you were born Black in America, raised on the whispered terrors of the Ku Klux Klan and the engrained panic of public lynching, and you were there inside the U.S. Capitol that day. Imagine having survived civil war, the uprising of mobs blinded by rage, driven by bloodlust in the name of some personality elevated to supreme power, and you were inside the U.S. Capitol that day. Imagine being a woman having survived rape or domestic violence, and you were inside the U.S. Capitol that day. Imagine being a veteran suffering from severe PTSD, and you were there that day. Mere minutes made a difference that day. Members of Congress and their staff came so close to being lynched by the mob that day.
You came so close, America.
You came so close to having your Congress murdered; you came so close to having a dictator taking over your country, helped by militias and law-enforcement bodies that have been infiltrated by white supremacists over the years, lying in wait for that promised moment where they would take their country back. And although many try to diminish or dismiss the importance of that moment that is presently defining the future of your nation, yesterday’s start of Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial was a clear reminder that you are still too close to losing everything you fought so desperately in the last four years to regain.
And while we mock the ridiculous dumpster fire that are Trump’s lawyers, we are yet reminded that white supremacy, no matter how unqualified, ill-equipped and unprepared, will still get outrageously significant support just because of what it is fighting to preserve. So for those lulled by the election of Joe Biden and the reassurance of a very slim Senate majority, I am telling you that America is still not safe; it is still on the brink of upheaval, waiting for the smallest trigger to commit irreparable acts of violence. Nations are still in the grasps of endless wars because of a stone thrown in anger decades ago. So please have the courage to resist the temptations of the very hatred that aided and abetted the rise of Trump.
Make it a point to be kind towards others, to resist the temptation of dog-whistling your favorite racist tune at Black People and People of Color, of harassing women who disagree with you or see the world differently through the lens of their experience, of being willfully obtuse whenever faced with your own prejudices, and of pretending outrage whenever a pattern of bigotry is pointed out. And while you watch Democrats be the very opposite of the white supremacy party, handling with deep respect the seriousness of the historical moment, working with integrity, fighting to uphold the law, and desperately attempting against all odds to strategically sway those extra 17 Republican votes they need to convict Trump despite knowing that it is close to impossible, please remember that Women, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color lead the same fight daily, and have been for centuries relentlessly, despite knowing that a less qualified white patriarchy still holds all the power.
Every step towards Progress is a hard-earned battle. You gain ground, you lose ground. And in this particular battle, every little step away from the resulting violence of January 6 is significant; every little win deserves to be celebrated, every little miracle needs not to be belittled but to be cherished and amplified as it lays the ground of hope for a better, safer tomorrow.