All Cops Are Bastards, until they’re beat up by a right-wing mob. When that happens, they’re heroic defenders of our proud democratic institutions, and the flag goes to half mast. They should be defunded — until you don’t have enough force to stop that angry mob. Which, by the way, was a tenth the size of any of the other angry mobs we’ve faced this year. We’re horrified to watch police violence on television, until the moment when the dumbass eating the nightstick is wearing the wrong color of hat — or the wrong color of skin, as some news outlets would leap in to mention, salivating over their ratings bump.
Oh, I get rooting for the home team. You’re a Democrat; you hate when Democrats get beat up. You’re a Republican; you’re embarrassed when Republicans riot and do dumb shit on a selfie cam. That’s perfectly normal. Last thing you want to do is identify with the loser, so naturally you justify the riot and blame someone else. All summer BLM has been blaming the right wing fringe for the fires and looting; now, Republicans are blaming antifa for busting down the doors. Yet it’s perfectly obvious to all and sundry that there’s plenty of room for copious and extravagant dumbassery on both sides of the political aisle.
We have the right to protest when things don’t go as we like: Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. You’ll notice, however, that word “peaceably” — when you skip that word, there are consequences — and should be. There’s a reason we don’t want guns at protests, second amendment notwithstanding: You want to be armed “just in case”; that’s fair enough, and I’m with you. But the moment when “just in case” happens at your protest, your cause already lost, and that gun won’t help anyone. All it’s going to do is add the word “Aggravated” to the front of your charges.
That’s the first two amendments, and nobody’s challenging them — except now, thanks to January 6th, the nation’s capital city is forbidding free assembly and banning guns. Oh, and let’s not forget that third amendment, the one you never hear about: They’re quartering soldiers on us — six thousand members of the National Guard so far, and we’ll get to pay for their hotel rooms. We’ll get to the next five amendments in a little while, as the trials by jury come and go and cruel but perfectly usual punishments are assessed in a nation that already imprisons more than one in every hundred citizens.
This. Is. What. Happens. when your protest gets out of hand, when your followers turn into a mob, and when you end the day by ransacking Congress. Government overreacts and cracks down.
A note on that: The Capital itself was built with easily climbable sides for a reason. Turns out the original designers wanted a structure that couldn’t be fortified. They were more afraid of a legislature declaring war on a president than of a mob tearing down the government. That last they could live with, having just done it; they feared worse things.
But we don’t live in 1776, nor should we pretend to. Back then, they fought a bloody revolution over high taxes, mass imprisonments, and government oppression. “No taxation without representation!” was the rallying cry — and now all the Republicans who were with me a second ago are starting to back off as they recognize the motto printed on every license plate in Washington D.C., home of seven hundred thousand people with no votes in the Congress that governs them — to say nothing of the 3.2 million Puerto Ricans, a populace that’s been serving in our armies for a hundred years and still doesn’t get to help pick the President.
Our Patriots are all about freedoms, but apparently they feel they can pick and choose. The second amendment, but not the first — can’t stand that Fake News; there ougtta be a law. Them rioters, they oughtta hang ’em high — speedy and public, oh yes, and the jury can be impartial so long as it finds them Guilty! Representation for everyone — except those so-and-sos in the Caribbean; that’s just more Democrats, and we’ve already got too many of them.
And the Democrats presently pearl-clutching over two dozen mad cosplayers in the Capital (plus an equal number of selfie-stick videographers) are horrified by this but not, apparently, over the seventy other federal buildings breached this summer. Yes, cosplayers — they’re wearing makeup and firs, waving flags and sporting body paint. All they’re missing is spandex costumes — though some make up for that with fake Kevlar and combat harnesses for their inhalers and Snickers bars. (One of our great writers should really script a comic one-shot about the adventures of Florida Man, last seen making off with Pelosi’s podium.)
This is not the first time the Capitol has been breached. Violent rioters were hauled out during the Kavanaugh confirmation; there were one hell of a lot more. I’ve seen video of the doors going down in the 2011 riots too. Hell, it wasn’t long ago that the White House grounds were breached and the Secret Service burned out — and half of y’all cheered! There have been bombings and shootings; in ’54, armed insurgents fired on Congress from the balcony. There were Hoovervilles and draft riots and even Continental Army men marching on the building to demand their back pay — and in all that time, nobody has ever tried to fortify the Capital. Not until today.
Today there are six thousand Guardsmen (that we know of!) in town for fear of politically motivated violence. Police departments are on high alert in three states.
Also today, Woke activism is celebrating the ban of a far-right pandering president’s Twitter account two weeks before his removal, as though silencing political speech is some sort of victory. Don’t get me wrong; Trump should have been facing site-based penalties right along — but that things have finally come to this pass is something to be mourned, not cheered. It’s a sign that we don’t know what we’re doing about free speech on the internet and never have done, and we won’t until it’s completely gone.
What I fear is the rise of the next set of Palmer Raids, a new J. Edgar Hoover, a Red Scare, H.U.A.A.C. and McCarthyism. In our rush to silence opposing voices, unless we’re very cautious we’re also going to silence our own. And we’re not being careful; the word of the day today isn’t caution but retribution.
So — yes, the costumed mob that raided the Capital: Everyone who entered the doors should be charged. Everyone who, earlier that day, stomped on a media outlet’s camera equipment needs to pay for what they’ve done. Personally, I figure community service and heavy fines would be most helpful, but we also need to set an example for the next set of rioters, whoever they may be — and regardless of the color of their hats.
And yes, we need to police ourselves over incitement to violence. There’s a time for armed revolution, and it’s when you lose the right to vote — not just when your side is the one that lost. We’ve got a long way to go between now and then, which is a good thing: if you’re planning violent revolt with your buddies and their hunting rifles, you haven’t been paying close attention to the drone program; you don’t know what a Hellfire missile can do.
We need these things, but we shouldn’t glory in them. We should mourn equally for the flag-bearing lady shot in the throat and for the cop who was forced to shoot her because he had absolutely no choice. We should remember the two fallen officers and be saddened over the arrest and conviction of two dozen people who broke the law while gripped in the throes of fervent yet misguided patriotism. There should be wailing and gnashing of teeth over the image of a cop getting beat with an American flag, not smugly snide self-righteous celebration of the irony on your Twitter feeds.
When the harsh justice of the law is invoked, it is a solemn occasion. Nobody won on the 6th; what happened was, everybody lost, and we’re all about to pay.
Let us hope the price won’t be too high.
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Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party laughs at all of us.