What can we learn from the the Jan 6 Capitol Riot?
As I watched the Trump supporters and rioters wave their flags and break windows and climb the walls of the Capitol building on Jan 6, I wasn’t surprised at all. I have suspected that a certain segment of Trump supporters were fully capable of such behavior for many different reasons.
If you study the footage inside the Capitol you will see one person carrying a huge Confederate flag and many others carrying printed signs saying, ”Stop the Steal”. One huge homemade banner says, ”Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President”. Smaller signs, symbols and pieces of clothing display Qanon, MAGA, and Militia symbols. Many men are in military garb with backpacks and helmets. Many are using their Trump and US flag poles as weapons against the small force of Capitol Police who are NOT in riot gear and have tiny cans of pepper spray or mace. They seem afraid to draw their weapons because they are outnumbered by at least 100 rioters for each policeman.
It is clear that a man tattooed and painted from head to toe and wearing a Viking helmet with sharp bull horns and carrying a huge spear, is screaming and chanting. This man has since been arrested so we know that he claims to be a Qanon Shaman who now has a lawyer who claims that his client is mentally ill.
The FBI will continue to arrest people who are easily identified by the video footage and cell phone pictures which are numerous and have date, exact time and location printed on them. Rioters tried to beat up journalists and steal cameras but many people, including the rioters, also took pictures. Some people may have looked like thugs but they were proud of what they were doing. They obviously came from many different backgrounds and places. They were all there because of one man: Donald Trump, who had given the order to get to the Capitol and fight, just before the crowd rushed toward this very building.
We may never fully understand what motivated EACH one of these people to come to Washington DC prepared for a riot or revolution, but it is already clear that many have said that they were,” Taking their country Back” by keeping Donald Trump in power.
People said that the election was fraudulent and they believe Trump won, because that was declared by him repeatedly. Some screamed, “ Kill Mike Pence”, who at that very moment was being rushed to safety by the Secret Service and Capitol Police. Others were looking for Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who were also evacuated moments before rioters broke into the House and Senate Chambers and several offices of key Democrats to steal things and photograph documents.
Since WWII, we have never seen a riot like this on US soil. We have seen individuals (like Timothy McVeigh) bomb or attempt to bomb government buildings. We have seen criminals commit arson and kill policemen. We have seen many mass shootings at schools and public spaces. Each time we have been shocked, but at the same time somewhat relieved to discover that these people appeared to be insane and usually acting alone. KKK violence and more recently the Charlottesville events are revealing that more organized hate groups are forming more frequently. We have failed to realize that crowds of people could be incited to not only riot, but to attempt to kill elected officials and their security personnel. There have been many more killings of US citizens carried out by white male Americans than by foreign born individuals. How do we end this increase in domestic terror and its threat to the “unalienable…rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all Americans?
We need to arrest these rioters, but are they the only ones that we must hold accountable? If most of them are mentally ill and delusional, we must ask ourselves why and how did they all gather at the Capitol steps on Jan 6 ? Why were police and security officials and journalists threatened and beaten by so MANY different people? What was motivating these people? As people are arrested and interviewed, we will gather more information and we must analyze it carefully to understand the answers.
Would any if this riotous and criminal behavior have happened if Trump himself and other Republican leaders had admitted that Trump lost the Election and Biden had won fairly by over seven million real votes cast by real US citizens? We need all forms of media to report the actual statements of rioters. We need to demand facts about the actions of their leaders. We need to demand honesty and integrity from all our government officials. Every citizen must think about how to prevent more violence, so here are a few suggestions:
First - Two recounts done by Republican officials in Georgia showed NO voter fraud and only minor differences of a few hundred votes. Also more than 55 court cases were filed by Trump and his lawyers and these cases found ONLY small numbers of voters who cast ballots fraudulently. There were NO instances of poll workers making errors in counting or reporting or shredding the votes in any states that Biden won. We need transparency and truth in government AND in any media that is charged with reporting these facts, so we can know the truth and not be confused by misinformation. This is how democratic governments retain their legitimacy.
Second - State republican officials repeatedly refused to change the vote count in GA after 2 recounts and officially certifying the vote for that state. Weeks later Trump tried to convince these officials in a taped phone call, to “add 11,000 votes” for him and to “change the official vote count”. We need to hold Trump accountable and anyone else who commits any attempt to commit massive election fraud accountable. This is how we establish faith in our voting system and faith in the certification of election results at all levels of government. Otherwise the media and losers who refuse to concede, can confuse the public and take power away from the citizens who vote. Democracy starts to die when this happens.
Third - Trump and Republicans used voter fraud claims in order to raise money for their future campaigns. Campaign finance laws allow Trump (and the Republican Party) to keep much of this money for personal use. We need campaign finance laws that encourage candidates who want to be public servants and discourage candidates who desire wealth, power, and fame and who listen only to their wealthiest donors.
Fourth - Trump and several other Republicans repeatedly asked their supporters to come to the Capitol and “stop the steal”. Anyone who uses their position and power to stop the peaceful transition of power over to a newly elected government official, must be held accountable for this undemocratic act. If this is allowed to happen, the will of the Majority of voters is Thwarted and democracy ends.
Fifth - So far at least one Jan 6 rioter has been arrested and his lawyer has stated that he is mentally ill. What if a large majority of the people arrested and charged with criminal trespass or more violent behaviors on Jan 6, plead not guilty due to mental disabilities? Service men and women who have suffered head trauma and other injuries during combat must be given more effective healthcare and immediate access to ongoing and effective therapies and supervision if they exhibit violent tendencies. People who apply for security jobs or gun permits must be given thorough background checks before they are hired or trained. (In most states, substitute teachers must get background checks to make sure they are not going to do harm.) These types of security checks ought to be expanded so that jobs that require individuals to have fast and effective reactions in violent or emergency situations, are mentally fit for their jobs and able to be trained to carry out effective non-violent responses.
Sixth - Every year Innocent people are killed by gunfire and are severely injured. Anyone who thinks that carrying a gun is the best way to be safe from harm needs to be frequently reminded that a gun that you own or carry can easily be used to kill you. If we do not sensibly restrict the ownership and purchase of rapid fire weapons, we will continue to have the largest number of gun deaths per capita of any nation in the “civilized” world. We will have more violent crime, not less, because security officers and innocent bystanders will be killed more often. Gun ownership does not promote safety and the freedom to carry guns takes away the ability to have peaceful protests and other public activities. FACT: US states with the most restrictive gun laws have the least shootings.
Seventh – Those rioters who go to prison for less than 25 years must receive rehabilitation so that they learn how to be workers and healers, not haters and fighters. Many of them are so confused by falsehoods and trauma that they view Democrats and people of color as enemies and evil. They need programs that enable them to rebuild their lives. There are many model prison programs such as the Bard College program run in New York State. Some programs help prisoners overcome addictions and mental disabilities by meditating, growing and preparing their food and doing community service work. We must fund these programs, carefully oversee and train prison guards, and measure recidivism and success, so we can tweak or expand programs that heal anger and hate and give purpose to prisoners so that they can return to society successfully.
Eighth - The documentary film “Healing From Hate” demonstrates very well the type of help that is needed. When I viewed this documentary, I realized that it is possible to change the hearts and minds of men and women who have been radicalized by trauma, obuse, anger, hate, and lies. View this film if you know someone who is falling prey to lies told for power and profit and you may discover ways to help that person.
It is my hope that we will study and consider some of these solutions over the coming months. Sometimes we trick each other and the media into only fretting and worrying about the future, instead of becoming effective and knowledgeable citizens. Let’s spend less time debating or reading about conspiracy theories. It is not OK to think people are inherently evil or to assume that nothing can help them change. We all can strengthen democracy, root out corruption, and focus on solving our most serious problems: climate chaos and social and economic injustice, by becoming aware and active citizens.