On Jan. 6, America’s democracy came under siege. Thousands of armed demonstrators violently surged to breach the sanctity of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. They outnumbered, overwhelmed, and outmaneuvered the security police of the Capitol. The mob vandalized and desecrated the hallowed halls of our nation’s government, our nation’s freedom, and our ideals.
The rioters were emboldened by Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, with his delusional claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that his re-election was stolen from him.
Outraged citizens rightfully lay the blame for the violence at Trump’s feet. He is the one at the head of the movement. He is the one who ultimately must take full responsibility for the results of his leadership.
But Trump is only the poster boy of a movement that consists of 73 million followers, who faithfully voted for him and are the base of his support. To hold Trump alone accountable for the insurrection-like attack is like holding Adolf Hitler solely responsible for Nazism. His base of support also deserves to be credited with complicity.
There is a subtle but significant difference between blame-laying and assigning accountability. Blame is mere accusation. Accountability mandates correction and restitution, not vengeful punishment.
The armed siege and overrun of our nation’s Capitol does not come as a surprise. A rehearsal for the takeover was staged in the summer of 2020. Armed members of an extremist right-wing political faction overran and occupied Michigan’s State Capitol.
There was no violence in Michigan. But a few months later, a plot to kidnap, and eventually execute Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was revealed. Thirteen individuals were arrested and charged in the plot to assassinate Michigan’s governor. Six of them were indicted and await trial.
The fervor of the 2020 presidential election campaign took center stage in the news, and detracted from the ominous horror of the Michigan plot. But five months later on Jan. 6, the grand performance was staged in D.C. Lame-duck Donald got the credit as the leading man with rave negative reviews.
In the uproarious coverage of the desecration, I heard a noteworthy comment, “America is in a crisis of two pandemics. One is the pandemic of the coronavirus; the other is a pandemic of violence.” I was struck by the great insight and wisdom of the statement. Much to my regret I missed the name of the spokesman and cannot attribute the credit due to him.
An infectious pandemic of violence propagated by an abundance of hatreds has persisted and devastated America for decades. Violence is a declaration of bankruptcy of options in conflict resolution. Could it be that the violence of the civil unrest of the past year is an affirmation of America’s bankruptcy? I hope not!
The urgency-filled attempt to remove the incumbent president is analogous to a medical lancing of an infected boil. It’s a necessary removal of an irritant. The transfer of power to a new administration may stop the hemorrhaging. But the impending healing process promises to be long, tedious, and arduous.
Fred Natkevi is a longtime Oak Park resident who grew up in Eastern Europe during World War II.