I was fascinated the other day, while watching interviews with a few of the insurrectionists during the siege of the Capitol building on January 6th, at their inability to explain why they were there and what they hoped to accomplish. One middle-aged gentleman, if I may be permitted to call him that, seemed outraged that the reporter was asking him questions such as “when you get in what are you going to do?” Visibly agitated, he replied, “That’s the problem, that you even have to ask the question!” He stomped off, and turned around to yell, “1776!”
I don’t know who that man is, and the video lasted but a minute or so; as such, it’s a snapshot so to speak, a brief moment in an otherwise complete life I can only imagine. He’s a mother’s son, of course, and perhaps a husband and father. He’s probably worked for a living, probably very hard and for a very long time without enough reward. It may be that he’s suffered, and most of us do suffer in our particular ways, and that suffering has turned him bitter and angry with disappointment, at himself, his life, and – on that day of January 6th, 2021 – his government. As I say, I can only imagine who he is and how he feels.
In the same way, videos of those who reached the Senate floor reveal a general state of confusion, an aimless rooting about in the chamber’s old wooden desks, each desk so little it appears better suited to school children than adult senators. “Maybe this will be helpful to Ted,” one young man exclaims excitedly referring to Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, while turning pages within a three-ring binder. He is nearly incoherent with enthusiasm, as if he’s discovered treasure at the bottom of his father’s underwear drawer, hidden below neatly folded boxer shorts and t-shirts. Like the man who yelled at the reporter, he has no real idea of why he’s doing what he is, thoroughly caught up in a moment of no real purpose or plan. So it was, I suspect, for most of those who breached the building.
If the most violent of the mob had actually captured Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence they might have killed, but I doubt it. Throwing a noose around a neck and hanging someone sounds easier than it is. I suspect few, if any of the rioters, had more than a vague intention of why they were there and certainly no concrete plan. After all, supplanting democracy by violent revolution is no small task, and mere slogans, no matter how forcefully uttered or voiced, do not a government make, especially on the fly. Overall, it was an afternoon of madness, plain and simple, more like kids vandalizing playground equipment than insurrection.
As it was, when sunset arrived the revolution petered out, the prospect of dinner and a warm bed predictably attractive after a long afternoon of throwing tantrums at the frustrating loss of an election. Trump, the leader of the mobsters, had exhorted them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and storm the Capitol and said he’d be with them, but of course, that was just empty rhetoric, insincere words like so many others he’d falsely uttered for years. He watched it all on television instead, comfortably nibbling KFC fried chicken strips, and later said “Now go home. We love you. You’re very special,” and with that, the pretend revolution ended.