US POLITICS: Capitol attack seen as precursor of more violence for years to come – Opinion

Capitol attacked by Trump supporters

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged long before he took the oath of office Wednesday to strive to bridge the current bitter political divide.  “This is the time to heal in America,” he said.

Biden can achieve some success but the threat of violence is will hang over his administration. The sheer variety of names and symbols at the Jan. 6 insurrection boggles the mind: QAnon, American flags with the stars replaced by the Roman numeral III, Pepe the Frog masks, the Crusader cross, MAGA gear including a flag portraying Donald Trump as Rambo, as riding a Tyrannosaurus rex, and the “Zombie Outbreak Response Team, The New York Times reported.   

There were the yellow Gadsen flag, the so-called Confederate flag, the Proud Boys wearing their orange hats and the Boogaloos in their Hawaiian shirts, the green-and-white flag of a mythical country Kekistan whose god is“Kek,”the Marvel comic character Punisher, the flag of the former South Vietnam, the Zombie Outbreak Team, the Groyper Army,and the New Jersey European Heritage Association.

“It’s often all a caricature — it looks like military fan fiction — until it’s not and it crosses a very dangerous line. It’s funny until it’s scary,” said Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Especially scary was the presence of militias. They included the Oath Keepers, “an anti-government, pro-gun militia composed of largely former law enforcement and military veterans,” The Times said. The founder, Stewart Rhodes, is a former Army soldier. The Three Percenters was also represented. Its members believe in the falsehood that only three percent of Americans fought against the British in the Independence War.

As Trump’s supporters “massed outside the Capitol … and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead,” the AP reported. “The formation, known as ‘Ranger File,’ is a standard operating procedure for a combat team that is ‘stacking up’ to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

At least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement were “identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named,” the AP said. “In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting.”

So worried were the authorities about possible infiltration of preparations for Biden’s inauguration that the FBI made set about vetting the 25,000 National Guard members being deployed around the Capitol. 6Twelve were pulled from inaugural duties, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

In addition, the insurrection “blurred the lines between more mainstream Trump supporters and adherents of different extremist movements,” Reuters said, citing Oren Seagal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Seagal stressed that some attendees probably planned only to demonstrate and not take part in the riot.

The insurrection “signaled that many who subscribe to a nostalgic vision of the past are not ready to move on to a Biden administration,” militia expert Amy Cooter wrote in Scientific American. “It is, unfortunately, likely that we will continue to see violent efforts to disrupt that administration in the next four years, because many of these people see cultural changes that advance the interests of other demographic groups as a threat to their own liberty.”

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said Trump “encouraged the most extreme voices on the radical right. He built their ranks. He emboldened them. … We sit here four years later and there’s a coalition now of white supremacists working with militia tribes with QAnon. And remember ― there was no QAnon four years ago. It’s like a complete creation of the Trump age, thanks to social media companies as well. And Trump has actually built the coalition that is going to rain the carnage down on us like we saw at the Capitol last week.”

Political activist Richard Seymour, writing in The Guardian, said the country “urgently needs an anti-fascist movement” to counter the “incipient fascism” which developed under Trump and lay “the cultural and political groundwork for a violent, extra-parliamentary mass movement of the right.”

But Columbia University professor Dale Maharidge noted in his book, “Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s,” that fascism did not come with Trump or the insurrection, that a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939 drew 20,000 people. “It’s something that never went away. It’s part of the American DNA,” he wrote in his book, an excerpt of which ran in The Guardian. “Many of the 74 million who voted for Donald J. Trump in 2020 would be quite happy with authoritarian leadership.”

Really?

Don’t these people and the 147 members of Congress who have given them comfort really know about authoritarianism? As a trial run, they should do what their potential Comrade Leader suggested in another context and move to a country where they can get a taste of it. Then they may better understand how African Americans must feel in their own country and better appreciate the wisdom which Greek philosopher Aesop shared more than 2,500 years ago: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • brandli62  On 01/22/2021 at 11:18 am

    Further violence can only be stopped, if the perpetrators of the attack on the Capitol are consequently prosecuted. This includes the actual participants and their enablers, which includes Donald Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. A conviction of Trump in the Senate is a first step in the right direction.

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