It couldn’t happen here until it did

It couldn’t happen here until it did

By Aaron Strain / Opinion Page Editor

There are many valid reasons to peacefully protest – wealth inequality, police injustice and a lack of protections during a pandemic, to name a few.

Instead, on Jan. 6, a mob invaded the Capitol in Washington, and called for the heads of politicians ceremonially confirming long-since decided Presidential Election results.

Like President Trump himself, this insurrection was not an anomaly or Russian plot to undermine the west, it was business as usual for our shining city upon a hill.

The pre-existing organized and violent suppression of multiracial democracy has been made more obvious in the last four years. If the insurrection was a “stain on our democracy” and “not who we are,” what do we call racism, poverty and militarism, which have plagued this country since its founding?

Millions of Americans didn’t just decide one day to follow our demagogue-in-chief and believe in QAnon. Decades of hand-waving away marginalized people’s concerns of rising hate groups and destroying public institutions laid the groundwork for white disillusionment and radicalization.

In recent history, Ronald Reagan ran on the “Southern Strategy,” using abstract dog whistles about taxes and “Chicago welfare queens” to appeal to the southern racist’s sensibilities.

After 9/11, the U.S. government surveilled Muslims, placed them on no-fly lists, and turned a blind eye to increased Islamaphobic hate crimes. During the Obama years, armed and astroturfed Tea Party members intimidated officials working on expanding healthcare access at town halls.

Words turned into standard Republican policy for generations. They fomented pre-existing hatred towards the marginalized and tied subverting the Civil Rights Act to cutting billionaires’ taxes and erasing corporate regulations.

As a result, poverty rose, and life expectancy dropped, especially among communities of color, all while the wealthiest became wealthier.

While his overt rashness initially turned some off, Republicans realized hopping on the Trump Train was the strategic path forward for their conservative project.

After Trump lied about widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election, Republican Secretaries of State, who spent their careers looking for an excuse to suppress black voters, felt emboldened to rush through their restrictive rules. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 tax cut bill eased into law under Trump. He fully realized policies that were once only the dreams of the conservative intelligentsia.

Terrorists stormed Congress because they believed the same process which put their guy in power a mere four years ago was rigged and riddled with fraud.

Trump said he would join the last-ditch overturn effort at a rally moments before the crowd moved to the Hill. Instead, he went back to the White House, where he, presumably, caught his speech’s reruns on right-wing networks.

The mob, however, still believed in the cause. With suspiciously minimal security pushback, Confederate flag-waving rioters – self-titled “patriots” – ransacked the building.

The obvious parallel here, of course, is that if they knew weeks ahead about a Black Lives Matter rally at the Capitol, they would have built a 10-foot-wall around the building. Letting the mob in was not a “failure” of policing. It was the systemic unbalance of government violence laid bare.

After security finally cleared the chambers, some GOP lawmakers still objected to election results. After it was painfully obvious Trump incited the mob, all but 10 House Republicans voted against impeachment.

Unlike what media figures and wonky Democrats tell us, 10 Republicans voting for impeachment should not be cause for celebration. It should be a rebuke of the other hundreds of enablers and the system which created them.

We’ve told ourselves, “it can’t happen here,” until it does. “The fever will break,” until it doesn’t.

Saying “America is so much better than what we’re seeing” is plain wishful thinking. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to excuse history affecting the present. Instead, say, “America needs to do so much better,” because society cannot improve if we believe improvement isn’t necessary or beyond possibility.

Aaron Strain is a Hutchinson student studying journalism. He is the Collegian’s Opinion Page Editor.

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