As he paced ahead of the hordes of red-hat wearing rioters, the security officer looked scared. Every few steps, he would stop, attempt to regain control of the situation, and then retreat another few paces. At first, he kept his hand on the holster of his gun; when it became clear that the mob was too close and too armed for a pistol to be an effective deterrent, he reached for a baton someone left on the ground.
This ominous dance continued over and over, until the crowd reached the hallway outside the Senate chamber. Never in our collective imagination would one security guard be seemingly all that stands between the endlessly mythologized Senate chambers and a horde of baying facists. And yet, here it was, happening in front of the camera lens of a Congressional reporter.
The mob that laid siege to the Capitol yesterday were the troops in President Trump’s failed war to overturn the results of November’s election. To the public—and to some blindingly naive members of the press—they portray themselves as merely concerned citizen, worried about the legitimacy of the democratic process and standing in opposition to a nebulous and apparently indescribably corrupt authoritarian conspiracy. Their true motives are intentionally hidden in chat logs maintained in the dark corners of the internet, where they can speak freely of the necessity of white genocide.
Yet yesterday the hatred core to the Trump ideology was unmissable; in the Confederate flags the protestors waved in the halls of Congress; from the threats of violence against the media they left in vandalised offices, and in the signs they held on the National Mall, proclaiming that the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust were “not enough.”
Across the country, all eyes were seemingly glued to images of the insurrection. Americans are in a uniquely ideal state to consume a display so visual and so dramatic; many of us remain homebound as a result of the still raging pandemic. In fact, the largest group of people unaware during yesterday’s events were likely the doctors and nurses and frontline healthcare workers, still trapped in a desperate and devastating and utterly avoidable battle against the coronavirus.
Four people died yesterday on the National Mall and the halls of Congress. 4,000 died across the country from COVID-19. These events cannot—and should not—be separated. They are both the result of Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency and the rotten institutions that gave his administration power. They both must be remembered and avenged.
Like all governments, America is run by a series of entrenched institutions. These institutions are inept, frequently evil, and often wrong, yet they cling to power based on a projection of competency and safety in the face of the great unknown of any alternative structure.
Yesterday, the last vestige of these structures collapsed. We expect our government to protect us. They failed. We assume they can at least protect themselves. And at that, they also failed.