Two quick notes before I begin:
First, I’m deliberately not identifying any of the people featured in these photos, even though in some cases arrests have already been made. This is out of concern for misinformation that is currently flooding the internet. In times of crisis, some people rise to the occasion while others make up bullshit and spread rumours. While a clearer picture is emerging, I’ve already seen a number of details that I thought were true being confirmed false. So I’m holding off on names at least until indictments come down.
I’ll reconsider if I revisit these events later.
Second, as a CAF member, I’m obliged to be cautious about commenting on current political events. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll probably be able to guess what I think about President Trump’s supporters storming Capitol Hill last week, but there’s a certain expectation of discretion that needs to be adhered to.
Especially in times like this.
So rather than breaking down events in detail and freely speculating on guilt, what I want to talk about right now is symbols. Especially National symbols and the mythology that goes with them.
…HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-“
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET – Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point-“
MY POINT EXACTLY.
This is a passage from Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Hogfather’ where Death (who is a regular character in the Discworld series and speaks in all caps) explains the role of children’s stories in the development of adults’ beliefs to his granddaughter Susan. Justice, mercy, duty. These things don’t physically exist. They exist because we want them to exist, and we act as though they are force in our lives. Just as you can’t directly observe magnetism, but you can observe the magnetic field’s effects, justice is invisible to the eye but a just society is easily recognized.
So in the midst of all last Wednesday’s chaos, the douche-nozzle known as the ‘QAnon Shaman‘ managed to get himself a larger than average share of attention. It’s up to the point where I was seeing his face as a thumbnail for those stupid clickbait articles they put at the bottom of blog posts just days after the fact. Coming from a pure novelty perspective, it makes sense. Visually, he’s the biggest asshole there, and deliberately out to cause a scene. Naturally he’s going to be front and centre.
But then I start to think about what really happened in this riot. At the time of writing this, we’ve learned that a woman (apparently a QAnon believer who tried to force her way into the Senate) has been shot and killed. A Capitol Police officer was beaten to death and apparently dozen of others were badly hurt, even as other police are alleged to have opened gates and taken selfies with the rioters. An female rioter was trampled, while two male rioters suffered medical emergencies.
Five people dead, and as the days pass there’s growing evidence of greater violence that was only narrowly averted. Images of men carrying zip ties and guns who entered the Capitol with what appears to have been a coordinated plan. Of known white supremacists and neo-Nazis caught on camera. Of possible evidence that the security failures may have been deliberate and not just negligent.
It is likely more information will be revealed in near future, but for now the implications are downright terrifying.
Meanwhile that fucking clown is prancing around, sitting in the Speaker’s chair and acting like it’s all a big joke. Not only that, but he’s making it easy for your average rubber necked bystander to treat the whole thing like it’s a farce. I’ve had a friend who could typically be counted upon to take the police side in every conflict, who nevertheless was laughing it up about the American freak parade in Capitol Hill.
Who the fuck is this butt-hole to be dancing around in a stupid costume while his fellow Americans hid in fear and died?
There’s a very natural temptation to look at the desecration of Capitol Hill and feel like something vital in America has been destroyed. The building itself, and so much inside of it is symbolic of what America is, or at least what it aspires to be. When these physical objects are trampled and openly disrespected, there’s a sense that America has been tangibly damaged as well. And that’s a hard thing to contemplate.
This is why I led off with a Pratchett quote; it’s the crux of what I want to say now, especially to my American readers. What was destroyed last week were symbols representing ideas, and seeing it happen will naturally be painful. It’s also terrifying because ideas are intangible. You can’t inspect them for cracks and distortions to determine if they are able to continue serving their purpose. How can you know if an idea is still viable?
To this I want to say that an idea exists as long as people believe in it and act accordingly. As I’m writing, members of Congress are seeking to Impeach the President, while the FBI is hunting down and arresting rioters. While some continue to repeat baseless claims and downplay the violence, senior Republicans have come forward to denounce these events and assert their belief in a higher ideal.
In this respect, the fact that the damage done was mostly limited to physical symbols is the measure of the rioters’ failure. People hold ideas. People make symbols. Those symbols are only powerful because people make it so.
If Americans stop believing in America, then the country will vanish overnight without a shot being fired. There will still be a physical land mass with millions of human beings living in it, but the country will be gone. However so long as Americans believe they are possible and act accordingly, then they will carry on. The appearance may change, and new symbols may be needed to replace those that were lost, but so long as people exist and give a damn, their nation exists also.
So as trite as it may sound, I just want to say: America? Believe!
***Featured image: A reuters photographer (Leah Mills) caught the crowd outside the Capitol at the exact moment a piece of police ordinance went off. Source.***
 And conversely, an unjust society becomes instantly obvious, assuming you’re willing to look.
 There’s also news that a Capitol Police officer has since committed suicide. At this time it’s not clear why this happened, so I’m not including it in the official tally here.