A few thoughts on the violence at the Capitol, otherwise known as everyone always thinks they’re right

If violence is never justified, it’s never justified.  If fomenting violence is wrong, then it’s wrong.  If context matters, then it matters.  If elections matter, then the way we conduct them matters.  If we hope for a peaceful future, we must all acknowledge the rules of the game.

I’ll be honest:  I find myself rather conflicted about the rioting that erupted at the Capitol Building this past Wednesday.  I believe political violence of any kind, or violence of any kind for that matter, is unacceptable and should be condemned.  In that sense, I condemn the events and want to see the perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

At the same time, I cannot bring myself to be as outraged as my liberal friends after witnessing the events of this past summer and the past four years in general.  A part of me keeps thinking:  Where have you been?  Did you just arrive on Tuesday from another dimension?

Violence in America, against both property and political institutions, has been an unfortunate trend in 2020, among many another disturbing phenomenon.

On Monday, August 10, shots were fired outside the White House.  A law enforcement officer was hit and a press briefing was interrupted.  The situation was so serious, the Secret Service took Trump and other aides to the White House Bunker.  Nor was this the first time the bunker had to be used this year or the first instance of violence near the White House.

In late May, protestors physically confronted the Secret Service.

CNN reported at the time, “protesters confronted Secret Service officers outside the White House for hours on Friday – shouting, throwing water bottles and other objects at the line of officers, and attempting to break through the metal barriers.  At times, the crowd would remove the metal barriers and begin pushing up against the officers and their riot shields. The Secret Service continually replaced the barriers throughout the night as protesters wrestled them away.  Protesters pushed hard enough a few times that officers had to walk away with what appeared to be minor injuries. At one point, the agents responded to aggressive pushing and yelling by using pepper spray on the protesters.”

The article contained not a hint of outrage about the incident.  It wasn’t characterized as a threat to democracy itself or the end of America as we know it.  No one I’m aware of asked Joe Biden or Kamala Harris to comment on these events, much less condemn them.  Instead, the authors found time to criticize Trump himself, claiming that his weekend tweets, “also invoked imagery tied to brutal civil rights-era police tactics.”  These tweets occurred after the White House itself was attacked.

On August 28, Rand Paul and his wife were assaulted by protestors outside the White House after Trump’s convention speech.  The Senator described the mob as composed of about 100 people, just one block away from the White House.  He noted that he felt his life was in danger and it was only the action of the Capitol Police that prevented him and his wife from being harmed.

Politico coldly described the scene and then promptly provided justification for the mob, “Videos on social media showed protesters circling around Paul and his wife, Kelley, after they left President Donald Trump’s keynote speech. Protesters shouted at the Pauls, crowding the couple on the street.  Protesters demanded the Kentucky senator acknowledge the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police executing a no-knock warrant in her Louisville, Ky., home. Her death is one of several police-involved killings that have sparked protests nationwide against racial injustice in law enforcement.”

Once again, there were no condemnations, calls for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to weigh in, or considerations that attacking a sitting US Senator was a threat to democracy.  In terms of media coverage, it might as well have not even happened.

I don’t describe these events here in an attempt to justify the violence at the Capitol Building or Trump’s rhetoric leading up to it, but rather to point out a simple fact:  If violence at the Capitol isn’t justified, then neither is violence at the White House or assaults on sitting Senators.  If we are going to condemn violence, then we must condemn all of it, all the time.

There can be no exceptions, ever.  If an exception is allowed for one group, there is no doubt another group will follow. The same is true for political rhetoric. 

In June 2020, while cities were literally in flames on a nightly basis, soon-to-be-sworn in Vice President Kamala Harris, said, “Everyone beware. They’re not gonna stop before election day in November, and they’re not gonna stop after election day…They’re not gonna let up, and they should not.”  Then she tweeted her support of a group paying bail for people arrested at the riots, putting them back on the street to do even more damage.

Kamala Harris wasn’t alone.  Liberal firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted, “The whole point of protesting is to make people uncomfortable…to the folks who complain protest demands make others uncomfortable…that’s the point.”  She was never asked what she means by “uncomfortable” or to condemn the riots.

A couple of years earlier, Nancy Pelosi mused, “I just don’t know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country.  Maybe there will be.”  She was not to my knowledge accused of inciting an insurrection.

The entire Democrat Convention passed without mention of the riots.  Joe Biden chimed in three months after the riots began.

Democrat politicians were dutifully aided and abetted throughout by the mainstream media.

On CNN, Chris Cuomo wondered, “Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”  Despite buildings burning in the background, reporters assured us we were witnessing nothing more than a peaceful demonstration.  Chris Cuomo’s colleague, Don Lemon, went even one step further.  “Our country was started because [of] the Boston tea party. Rioting.”

In other words, the riots over the summer were an insurrection.

The Associated Press helped out by eliminating the use of the word “riot” itself from their articles.  They argued, “focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s.”

Instead of “riot,” they decided to say “unrest,” then they abandoned that standard this week and immediately reverted back to using “riot.”

Before then, books were even published to justify these events, check out In Defense of Looting by Vicki Osterweil. These defenses were based on a brand new theory entering the mainstream for the first time:  Critical race theory.  White people were repeatedly told to “check their privilege” and attend “anti-racism” training to learn exactly how racist they are.  We were informed that white men in particular were the problem, and that we were living in a misogynist “patriarchy.”

The New York Times even went so far as to publish a series, The 1619 Project, claiming that the true origins of the United States were in slavery and racism.  The series earned a Pulitzer and it’s creator Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that destroying “property is not violence.”

The riots of 2020 were accompanied by the destruction of monuments to long-term American heroes and icons, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and more.  No white male figure was safe, even statues of women were torn down.  A conservative commentator wrote, “Call them the 1619 riots,” and Nikole Hanna Jones responded, “It would be an honor, thank you.”

The riots weren’t all that happened over the summer either.  They were accompanied by the wholesale rewriting of election laws in many states, resulting in a Presidential election like no other in American history.  In 2016, there were approximately 43 million “early votes” either in person or by mail.  This year, that number spiked to 101 million, driving turn out to a total 159,633,396, an 18.9% increase over 2016.

To put this in perspective, the nearest parallel for a change in the electorate this radical was after women’s suffrage in 1920, when the electorate increased by 42.6% over 1916.  Nothing else in modern history comes close.  If you consider the change in early voting numbers alone, there has been no alteration in the electorate this dramatic since 1820.  Throughout it all, Democrats and the mainstream media acted like this type of massive change across a single cycle was completely normal, if not desirable.

I do not recount these numbers here to debate the value of higher voter turnout and mail in ballots, only to illustrate that it was one of the single largest changes in the conduct of elections in the nation’s history and all of it occurred with barely any public debate.

In many cases, the new rules weren’t even properly voted on by the state legislatures.  They were declared by fiat by governor’s, public officials, and the courts.  Ultimately, whatever your opinion on the merits, the American people never agreed to conduct elections this way.  Instead, it was completely foisted on us, almost literally in the dead of night.

The end result is that approximately 70% of Republicans believe the election was stolen.  These feelings have been summarily dismissed as a “conspiracy theory” without any acknowledgement of the reality that this election was conducted differently than every single one before.

Put another way, does anyone truly believe Biden would have won if we had used the same rules as 2016?  I have yet to hear anyone on either side assert such a thing.

Finally, this year also witnessed something else, perhaps even more radical, that was literally foisted us in the middle of the night:  Mass lockdowns and restrictions on freedom due to the pandemic.  Never before in the history of the United States has the Bill of Rights been completely voided, churches closed, gatherings banned, and businesses shuttered.  These policies have never been debated or voted upon.  They were barely even mentioned prior to their overnight implementation, nor has the will of the people been heard in any meaningful way.

Again, my intention is not to debate the merits of any particular policy, merely to state the simple fact that these events occurred without any vote or debate.  Perhaps more importantly, objections to these occurrences by large percentages of the population, much like with concerns about ongoing rioting and ad hoc changes to election law, were met with indifference, if not outright hostility.

Ultimately, all of these factors directly contributed to the events at the Capitol Building this past Tuesday.  While nothing excuses lawlessness and violence, it is fair to consider the context.  The AP was happy to do exactly that when the riots aligned with their political objectives, only to suddenly alter their methodology without notification when they didn’t.

If context matters in one case, it matters in all cases.

I understand that liberals will strongly disagree with just about everything I’ve said here.  I am completely confident they will believe that in each and every instance their position was justified and morally correct.

That’s not the point:  Millions upon millions of Americans believe the exact opposite just as strongly. The real tragedy of the Trump era is the inability of the mainstream media and liberals to acknowledge and understand what has motivated his voters.

Instead of coming to terms with the beliefs and feelings of half the country, and accepting that millions of their fellow citizens disagree with their positions, Trump voters were almost universally maligned as backward racists and misogynists, depicted as a rump movement with no popular support.  Despite this, Trump went on to receive approximately 10,000,000 more votes than in 2016, more than any incumbent President in history.

Ultimately, the only peaceful path forward is to acknowledge that these differences exist and that they matter.  Trump is leaving the White House, but the Trump voter is not going away.  They are your fellow citizens and loved ones.  If we have any hope of anything resembling unity or just plan sanity, it is going to require a mutual acceptance of the rules of the game.

If violence is never justified, it’s never justified no matter who the perpetrator.  If fomenting violence and insurrection is wrong, then it’s wrong regardless of political party.  If context matters in some cases, then it matters in all cases.  If election results are to be respected, then the way we conduct them must be respected as well.

The only alternative is continued escalation on all fronts.  They say that war is a politics by other means.  Actions have reactions, and escalation will be met with escalation.  Otherwise, you are expecting one side to surrender, and that’s not going to happen in the United States without a fight. It never has and it never will.

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