Terry McLaughlin: What just happened?
There is no excuse for the violence that took place on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. What we witnessed is morally reprehensible and I am ashamed and horrified that it occurred.
Americans deserve to know who was responsible, and those persons who perpetrated vandalism or violence should be brought to justice.
It cannot be denied that both the political far right and far left are home to their own share of Antifa-like anarchists, and the chaos at the Capitol has refuted any perception that the left owns a monopoly on widespread political violence. While we can never excuse or defend this behavior, we can make an honest effort to identify the environment in which it happened.
These events resulted from a multitude of causes: concerns and distrust in the integrity of our elections, pent up frustrations of citizens stripped of their livelihoods and freedoms during the pandemic, and yes, the rhetoric of the president of the United States.
But not the least of these causes is the justification, defense, and even apathy of the media and many of our elected political leaders regarding the violence committed across America throughout 2020, including attacks on federal courthouses, burning of police stations, and the establishment of “autonomous zones” in Portland and Seattle. The message was loud and clear: If you are dissatisfied with a political or social issue, violence is an acceptable answer.
Prior to the massive unrest we witnessed throughout 2020, we should also recall the shooting of Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise in 2017, or the activists who stormed the Capitol and Senate office buildings in 2018 to oppose the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh.
Protestors threatening the White House and Republican legislators this past summer forced the Secret Service to rush the president to a security bunker only to be mocked by the media the next day.
These examples in no way justify the violence that occurred inside the Capitol last week, but the reaction from conservative leaders roundly condemning the violence from their own side stands in stark contrast to the way Democrats and many in the media responded to the actions of militant leftists, and this double standard has contributed in meaningful ways to what we witnessed last week.
Conservatives have spent months pointing out that Democratic Party leaders did not do enough in their own cities and states to crack down on the militant mobs taking over their streets, and in some cases entire city blocks, while many in the media ignored or downplayed the widespread violence that included setting police stations on fire after sealing doors shut with people still inside the building, assault, vandalism, looting and destruction of entire neighborhoods.
Democrats concluded their entire national convention without condemning the epidemic of violence that had been engulfing the nation in the preceding months.
Kamala Harris urged her supporters to contribute funds to bail out rioters who had been arrested for setting fire to Minneapolis.
Joe Biden scoffed at the anarchist Antifa movement, calling it just “an idea.”
When a section of downtown Seattle had been occupied by protesters for weeks, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s response was “Don’t be so afraid of democracy.”
When statues of historical figures were being torn down by rioters in multiple cities, Nancy Pelosi’s tepid response was “I don’t care that much about statues. People will do what they will do.”
CNN’s Chris Cuomo famously chided critics of mob violence, saying, “Too many see the protests as the problem …. Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”
“And let’s not forget,” said CNN’s Don Lemon as cameras rolled with footage of riots in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, “This is how this country was started.”
MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi stood in front of a burning liquor store in Minneapolis and called the riots surrounding the camera crew “mostly a protest” that is “not, generally speaking, unruly.”
CNN literally adopted the phrase “fiery but mostly peaceful” to describe events unfolding in Kenosha, Wis., even as reporters stood in front of burning vehicles.
Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times said on CBS that “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.”
The Huffington Post released a video outlining “How riots built America.”
An article in Vox argued that “riots are destructive, dangerous, and scary — but can lead to serious social reforms.”
Slate Magazine ran a piece, “Proportionate response,” justifying the riots ripping the nation’s cities apart.
GQ Magazine published a feature headlined, “Why violent protests work.”
And Mother Jones joined in with, “Riots aren’t irrational.”
Writer Vicky Osterweil published a book, “In Defense Of Looting,” and earned a feature on NPR for her efforts.
Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill commented on NPR that dismissing protesters as rioters “dehumanizes” them, impeding political progress.
I have not been able to find one prominent conservative with any significant platform who has endorsed the mob of Trump supporters who violated the U.S. Capitol.
It was indefensible and wrong, and there is no excuse for their actions. But the dismissive attitude toward violent behavior that has permeated our environment has surely contributed to an atmosphere of acceptance.
The permissive reaction of many on the left to the past year’s eruption of unrest, which claimed the lives of at least 30 people amid calls for defunding police, not only exposes the hypocrisy of Democrats’ current condemnation of political violence, but also illustrates that the blame for the dangerous divisiveness our country is experiencing is shared by all of us.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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