This month’s attacks on the Capitol confronted us with the darkish forces of glorified violence and white supremacy which have—prefer it or not—all the time been on the heart of the American expertise. As we course of what occurred, we should grapple with the truth that these assaults stem from a lot deeper causes than a single election. Addressing these causes will take greater than swapping out elements of our authorities. We could should swap out elements of our nationwide soul, too.
Many within the peace and safety sector had been elevating alarms nicely prematurely of the November election. The US checked the entire packing containers for political violence: an electoral course of that’s perceived as corrupt, compromised, or unfair; an incumbent’s worry of shedding energy; using threats to affect outcomes; the unfold of disinformation; and little or broken institutional constraints. The Trump rally, simply earlier than the assaults, was merely a spark.
And there was plenty of political gunpowder. A long time of declining financial alternative and cuts in social companies have helped chip away at a core American expectation that every technology’s way of life shall be larger than the one which got here earlier than. This resentment—fueled by racism and hyper-partisan echo chambers—created what has been termed “lethal partisanship,” the place hurt towards opponents shouldn’t be solely rationalized however explicitly supported. It was precisely this poisonous brew of threat elements that changed into violence on the Capitol.
Condemning the attackers, many well-intended voices proclaimed, “This isn’t our America” or “This isn’t who we’re.” This isn’t solely false, nevertheless it’s dangerously self-defeating. Solely by understanding the darkest elements of our nationwide soul can we make sense of what occurred on the Capitol that day and stop it from ever occurring once more.
From the founding of our nation, People have held a deep perception that violence is the best resolution to our issues. Glorified as a nationwide best and upheld by patriarchal norms, violence is promoted by means of concepts like “good guys with weapons” make us safer, all the best way to “good guys with nuclear weapons” to maintain the world secure. It’s a flawed understanding of safety that depends on drive and domination, and is why practically four thousand lively nuclear weapons in america—which will be launched on the only authority of any U.S. president—are nonetheless thought-about respectable even at a time when the world simply outlawed nuclear arms.
Nevertheless it wasn’t simply violence that was on show on the Capitol. White supremacy permeated the assault, with its calls to “take our nation again” coming the identical day as Black-led organizing and voter turnout resulted in hard-fought election victory in Georgia. The photographs of attackers strolling out and in of the Capitol unhurt stands in stark distinction to photographs this previous yr when overwhelmingly peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters skilled violence by a myriad of state security forces.
However white supremacy goes deeper—and is much older—than this month’s waving of accomplice flags or brandishing of anti-Semitic sweatshirts. White supremacy is seen in whose life is valued, whose story is believed, and whose safety is prioritized, and the way violence—painted as “good violence”—is meted out towards individuals of coloration and their concepts, ideas, beliefs, and actions. As American essayist Elaine Scarry notes, “the listing[s] of geographies the place US presidents have contemplated launching a primary strike…the place america has examined its bombs, and…international locations that america condemns for his or her aspiration to accumulate nuclear weapons” expose the racist underpinnings of our insurance policies.
The concept that the Capitol assaults “should not who we’re” is manifestly unsuitable. The flawed American exceptionalism, as girls’s rights advocate Diana Duarte claims, can’t be sustained with out American amnesia. Regardless of its flaws, our nation has a protracted, proud historical past of working in direction of justice. Acknowledging the darkish elements of our nationwide soul—not ignoring them—after which working to vary society regardless of them is what’s going to deliver justice. Something wanting that might be an abdication of our duty to create a extra good Union.
Dr. Patrick T. Hiller is Govt Director on the Warfare Prevention Initiative.
Michelle Dover is Program Director on the Ploughshares Fund