Questions in a Bottle: On the Storming of Congress

I wrote out the questions below on January 7, 2021, having watched the storming of Congress the day before. The insurrection seemed in those early hours both distant and maybe slightly unimportant, like much of the Trump Show; from inside my California shell I sometimes take great comfort in the idea that the entirety of MAGA-Land is an economically-allowed phenomenon that would wither and die without our money. I mean, what would happen if all the Red States had to pull their own weight? Just let them try to pull down the country, I thought, lazy in my Los Angeles-ness, as I began to critique the camera-angles CNN and MSNBC used to make the assembled clan look bigger. Didn’t they seem small, these grotesques, especially when compared with crowds that assembled back in the 70’s to protest the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movers of the 60’s who overwhelmed the Mall? I went down a rabbit-hole made possible by ignorance, querying whether there was violence during earlier protests and gatherings. Weren’t flags burned and people hurt? Is black-and-white really a good look for rational thought?

Such stupidity, because the Day After That Day, the reality that animals had just shit in the Capitol was still with me, obliterating my brain’s attempt to make January 6 “normal.” It wasn’t. The defecation and destruction was part of a program, and I had to see that and accept it. I needed to see that what MAGA accomplished was organized, brutal — yes, a piercing reflection of MAGA-man’s personal impotence and self-serving quite religious rage and yes, probably the work of squirrel-eaters, but also, yes, a terrorist plot enacted by those with nothing to lose against those who simply want to work without being harassed because they can’t wear the hood. January 6’s Infamy was a MAGA terrorist action to remind real men and women who do have something to lose that sham-mans with pick-axes and ancestral graveyards full of excuses will always be out there, waiting.

To pretend otherwise is to make sure those of us working for something better than our past will continue waiting for “things to calm down” while violence and mobbery bludgeon anything we can build a future on. It’s that simple and it’s that stark. Don’t pretend the rattlesnake is a pet.

*

So…here’s a time-capsule of sorts, questions that have not lost their resonance. I’m wondering if they resonate with anyone else.

  1. What if Trump’s army had automatic weapons? They’re really easy to get (especially if you’re only interested in semi-automatic conversions). With automatic or semi-automatic weapons, most of the US line of succession could’ve been killed, leaving Trump to mop up the blood. Was this the real, perhaps eventual goal? Was yesterday a trial run — letting the imbeciles stake out the place before smarter loyalists arrived later? Did Trump want to merely intimidate Congress, or did he hope some of his animals would kill? Will anyone ever know?
  2. Why did it take so long for reinforcements to arrive? It was, after all, well-known that the Joint Session would involve all members of Congress; the date, time, and place were on many right-wing calendars; T-shirts were printed and the potential for violence blasted around the world weeks in advance. Yet it took what must’ve felt like an eternity before Capitol Police were backed up. Why?
  3. Why do 40% of Republicans find no fault with the storming? Some of my friends say it’s because they “understand the frustration.” But, down deep, could it be that they are frustrated the rampage went no further? Are there, in America now, Republicans who are disappointed because there were no dead Democrats? If the mob had murdered Nancy Pelosi, how many Republicans would have cheered? Maybe that’s the difference between the parties: when Trump got COVID, I wanted him to get better — slowly, but still better. When Congress was being terrorized, Republicans got excited.
  4. Why are these anarchists being referred to as Trump supporters, when they should be referred to as treasonous criminals? Is this linguistic softening an indication of tacit support from a supposedly independent media?
  5. Are today’s Republicans enemies of democracy? Do they hate the idea that democracy now seeks to include people those with power never wanted included? Are they afraid of the equality democracy espouses, with no intention, EVER, of sharing power?
  6. Can a country survive when 40% of its people want to kill the other 60%? When Josh Hawley (the real danger here) can fist the air in support of murder and then make money off the picture?
  7. Why have Christian churches been so muted? Do they think the insurrection was just? They HOWL over gay marriage and abortion, but say very, very little when it comes to an attempted coup. Could it be that religious people can’t talk about the coup because they wanted more?
  8. When did America become so weak that nearly half of the country sees in a pathetic boy the picture of strength?
  9. Has America already died? Are we just waiting to pull the plug? What would it take for us to admit that the mind is gone, the principles are gone, the patriotism is gone, and that the only thing left to do is put the body out of its misery?

*:

No answers, just questions that have survived nearly two years.

CapitolSchool: Violent Not-Nice Insensitive Seminar for Liberals in America

They look like sweet town-folk,
salf-of-the-earth, flannel and jeans.
People that watch the sun come up.
Handsome.
Christian.

My God their pies are good.

Killers
who pray your mamby-pamby principles 
die with you, slaughtered in the street,
your thoughtful guts lapped up
by well-trained Republican dogs 
named Dog.

(Damn.  I forgot the warning.
“Warning.”)

But!  But!  
“How did this happen?” as the
flagpole stakes your throat, 
as unprecedented wheezes
through gurgled blood
and your solidarity-warm pink hat
floats down Constitution Avenue,
used and dark and alone.

You didn’t see them multiply.
You wouldn’t see them grow — 
in Kansas and Missoura,
Texas and ‘Bama, Ken-Tuck-y,
right beneath your woke-ness
and your museum arrogance and your
holier-than-thou Lululemon mindfulness.

Yeah, see?  You’re kinda 
responsible.

They knew they were safe.
They knew you wouldn’t think it,
then wouldn’t believe it — 
“Love is Love,” right? — 
“We’re all in this together,” right? — 
as Proud Sons and their Daughters
trained for war right under your
upturned noses,
groomed generals in broad daylight,
bought Armani camo, nice blue suits
(they already had the bullets
and the guns left over from
squirrel practice) —  
red necks covered by executive collars,
red ties to hide the splatter.

They left their hayseeds at home this time.

You were ready for zombies, sunken-eyed
okies whose farms were ripped away by BigBanks,
grandpas with four teeth chattering
all the way to the West Coast
(or something like that).
Oh, they had your number!
Talk about stealth!
Their fabric was fine, the
Stanford and Yale and Harvard degrees 
genuine — plus “Wow! He lifts weights, he’s so sexy!” 
(See my companion lecture on MetroSexual Roles 
in the Conservative Cause.)

“Consensus?” you pleaded.
“Let’s talk,” you bleated 
because — let’s face it — you’re afraid to fight 
with anything other than words;
and refusing to believe evil exists
and is usually HOT and BEAUTIFUL,
you left the Gate to the Sanctuary unguarded,
let WhiteNation and WomansPlace
shit
defile
ravage the Holy of Holies, 
our Temple,
us.

Maybe if they had worn
identifying armbands?

I know what you’re thinking
because that’s what you do —
I hear your “protest”:  
“Wouldn’t we be just like them
if we used our fists instead of words?”
“If we don’t move beyond labels?”
“Help them heal?”

That’s why they’ll win,
StupidBuford and LazyEyeLorraine,
because they listened to a real Grandma
who said:  

“Don’t leave your head so open your brains fall out.”

You thought she was old —
she only had one dress — 
you never saw her on Facebook —
Insta? — 

and then,
and then:

after Tucker and Rush and Hannity Ltd.
after Laura and Huckabee and Kayleigh visited;
giving guns to teenage saps
doning MAGA hunting caps
(so they’d know who not to cap);
after speeching D+ mobs,
after fisting fascist slobs — 

(did you get the little Eliot homage?) —

cops bleeding out on marble 
blinded
betrayed — 
the hunt was on!

Smoke-out the out-raged enemy 
like rabbits or Funny Cousin Earl, who
voted for Carter and was then dead
on his river-raft, thinking he was family;
target those limp-wristed Dem-o-crats
whose Cities call to Our Young
as Jezebel tempted Jesus
(it’s in the Bible);
forget, TexasTed, that
HE CALLED YOUR WIFE UGLY — 
AND YOU LET HIM;
we’ve got to corner all codlers, socialists and fags,
show them MTG would win a pig-fight,
make that Puerto Rican loudmouth BITCH 
run the Gov’ment Maze to her death,
execute California, hang the un-Hung
Next-in-Line — 

am I being dramatic?

Because what they want, 
what LittleHornedMan masked
with this “false-flag not-coup” — right? —
is to come:

your ideas, shred like your well-intentioned intestines, 
disemboweled from well-toned tummies,
blood sausage for rabid-stupid hungry children — 
your ideas, your precious and diverse ideas 
that helped BobJoe survive his nail-to-the-head
accident and paid for his black-hating diabetic
momma’s nursing home, 
high-falutin' ideas like Medicare and Social Security and 
vaccines (CONSPIRACY!  CONSPIRACY! ) — 
equality — 
dead with you.

*

Liberals, people who can think
and probably don’t want to die
(martyrdom being highly overrated),
listen to Grandma, please:

“If it walks like a duck and quacks,
it’s dinner.”

There are no town-folk.
There are no Christians.
There are no rights.

There are armies. 

This is America.

And their soldiers will sip sherry
right before carving out
your heart.

(Yes, this will be on the test.)

*

Trump, scha·den·freu·de, and righteous anger

I’m working something out.

Until very recently, my Republican (not Conservative) acquaintances have felt perfectly comfortable mocking my liberal friends for wearing masks during the world-outbreak of “the novel coronavirus.” Their contempt fit. It made sense, given that Republicans have allowed Trump to mock disabled Americans; women; indigenous Americans; Latinos; all minorities; immigrants and the countries immigrants fled; overweight women (truly ironic, given his obesity); people whose “genes” might not hold up to the scrutiny of Minnesotan Trumpers; women in professions like journalism.

Republicans let Trump run wild, and eagerly took up his cause. They refused to wear masks. Not wearing masks became, as I recently read, the equivalent of a MAGA hat, a sign of political opposition to “lib-tards.” Grandchildren in arms, mask-less Republicans patiently explained to me that “people die.” They wanted their stores opened! They wanted to Restaurant! Grandchildren not in arms, they screamed at essential grocery store employees about their rights, about produce workers trying to take away freedom. In the privacy of their Facebook worlds, they posted images of Jews being loaded onto trains in Germany with captions that read, “Now I know how this happened.” Because public health = deep-state final-solution.

They promoted Civil War. “Locked and Loaded” read many Twitter feeds, particularly in the South or anywhere David Nunes and Kevin McCarthy stepped foot in California (they don’t come to LA or San Francisco very frequently).

So. Now. Something’s changed. I wonder what.

President Trump has COVID – 19. He and his wife. Potentially, Sean Hannity. Chris Wallace. His primary political opponent. Anybody whose come to his mask-less events. Other legislators. Reporters. Those he ridiculed for caring about other people’s health.

True to form, there has been an avalanche of “appropriate commentary” from liberals who just recently considered him an Enemy of the State. “I wish him a speedy recovery.” “Let’s not engage in schadenfreude — he’s a man, first, and we shouldn’t wish sickness on anyone.”

How moral…and how correct. We shouldn’t…be happy.

Republicans wouldn’t be so moral, I don’t think. Remember when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died? According to the Washington Post, the President’s aides didn’t tell Trump before a rally performance she had passed because they were afraid he would tell his adoring crowds and they would cheer. On my own Facebook feed, one of my acquaintances suggested RBG’s death was an act of God, and wrote “Thank God she’d dead.” If Biden had COVID, Republicans would be prepping stakes to put him out of his misery. Just imagine Tom Cotton carving a stake, and see how real that image is.

But this doesn’t matter, not really. Judging my actions with a Republican yardstick is…not wise. Even though Trump has now been struck by the very disease he discredited, and pointing out that irony in ways subtle and gross would give me much pleasure, there is something stopping me.

What?

Those very people who support this walking disgrace to the Presidency stop me from being happy. This is what I’m working out. His supporters/enablers/complicitors (which is evidently becoming a word) are probably hurting. And maybe scared. They now have existential proof that not taking nature seriously…is a serious mistake. Their icon and idol will probably get better, as he’ll have much better care than Black America has had with respect to COVID, but that doesn’t compute in Red America right now. It hurts to have your gods de-godded. As Gustave Flaubert said in Madame Bovary, you have to be careful in dealing with golden icons; the gilt surface rubs off very easily.

Consider Trump rubbed clean. That’s got to hurt those who trusted the plating.

Which is why scha·den·freu·de is wrong. The word means, literally, “harm-joy.” Taking joy in some else’s suffering. Let’s be clear here: schadenfreude rarely occurs outside an atmosphere of hypocrisy; getting happy at the suffering of an ethical person doesn’t usually make much sense. But “watching,” say, the President of Liberty University get strung up in a sexual threesome (ooops, audienced twosome) makes sense when you remember that the Falwells have been carving moral judgement into bludgeons for decades.

Honestly, there is hypocrisy here in Trump’s case. There are lies and misinformation, and Trump seems to have been felled by his own world-view (or weltanschauung): he’s a man, men are strong, etc., etc. But I am not happy he has been infected, and not because he matters to me. Consonant with public Republican pronouncements, not every human being matters; remember, they were the ones who want to storm-open the economy because “PEOPLE DIE ANYWAY.”

No. I am not happy Trump is sick because I still have some affection for some of his supporters. I don’t want to see them in pain. I’m working through this. But as it stands, schadenfreude is out. I hope Trump gets better. It does feel wrong to want anyone to suffer, even those people who have caused so much suffering. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m working through it.

But on another point, I’m crystal clear. While I’m not happy he’s sick, I am very very angry that he has caused so much suffering, reflected rather than assuaged our country’s divisions, given shout-outs to ProudBoys even as he mocks a candidate for wearing a big mask. Trump doesn’t deserve my joy that he has a potentially deadly disease. I know what it’s like to have people look on disease and wish it on others (Republicans during the AIDS crisis); I never want to cause that kind of pain, and a small part of me still believes in redemption.

That is where anger comes in. Trump does deserve my anger. He has done horrific things, many of them to people who cannot fight back. He deserves the anger of a nation he lied to. He deserves our anger for becoming an icon of modern civil war. (Make no mistake, Republicans: he is not a mirror, as you claim; he is mirroring America’s divisions, and like a funhouse game blowing us out of proportion.)

My anger is healthy. Anger is necessary. Anger is redemptive. I’m angry this stupid man was allowed to inflict his moronic ego on the nation, which means I’m also angry at Trump’s enablers. I wish him a speedy recovery. But if I’m honest, I wish him that recovery so that I still have the chance to make him — and his supporters — pay for what they have done to the country.

Trump’s illness is a chance to remember our humanity. His recovery is a chance to exact justice. That won’t happen unless my liberal friends remember that it is completely necessary to be both humane toward and angry at a man who got burned by his own wildfire.