It confirms what we’ve known for the past two years—and then some. The January 6 committee’s report shows that our former despotic Cheeto in chief incited a mob with false allegations of voter fraud to storm the US Capitol and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Talk about moving the goal post of being the sorest loser. In the most violent way possible, too. Available to the public, the testimony and findings stacked against him are steep—over 800 pages worth.
Perusing the whole report, you’ll find this curious observation: “If we lacked the imagination to suppose that a President would incite an attack on his own Government, urging his supporters to ‘fight like hell,’ we lack that insight no more.” Who is this ‘we’? Anyone who’s read dystopian fiction or has lived on the margins of society won’t have lacked the imagination. Trust. And don’t forget that the attempted coup was recently rebooted in Brazil.
Over the course of eight chapters, the House committee in charge of the investigation recommends four criminal referrals against the former president. Hopefully, this leads to the prosecution we’ve been waiting for. But what to make of the societal morass culminating in the Capitol attack? Context is key. For that, we turn to the work of our authors. These books not only lay out the historical precedents—history may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes over time—but also show a way forward.
Hope. The concept may seem old-fashioned. Or it may be the last thing you feel when you’re living through disaster. But hope is the force behind a revolutionary life. Hope motivates you to confront the abyss in the face of long odds and impossible obstacles. This isn’t wishful thinking. Not the innocent kind you see in children’s books. It’s the hope you feel in the dark. You can’t see a better future. You don’t know if you’ll arrive there, ever. You question your intuitions. You’re shaken by your doubts. But without hope, there’s no way out of disaster. Without hope, this disaster—and the next one, and the one after that—will swallow you and everything you hold dear. Hope is like love. You feel grounded in the world.
The hate frame prevents examination of many types of violence embedded in American culture, some accepted or taken for granted, some not. It also prevents us from examining whom violence is directed against and why. Often violence is seen as spontaneous, such as intimate partner violence; sometimes as “legitimate,” such as police violence. In reality, such violence is structural—that is, embedded in cultural norms—and is frequently unseen and unchallenged . . . Only by understanding the actual causes of violence—is it used to oppress a person or group? to resist oppression? to assert independence? to assert control?—can we begin to comprehend what fairness or justice might mean in these situations.
—Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski
Three historical factors, in particular, made America sicker than we should have been in 2020: (a) entrenched racial hierarchies; (b) an economic structure dependent on individual accumulation of wealth and widespread consumption of ephemeral goods and entertainment; (c) distraction, cognitive dissonance, and an intentional historical amnesia that prevented the majority of comfortable, well-intentioned, middle-class, white Americans like ourselves from doing anything about the first two issues. These factors channeled seventy-four million people—nearly 47 percent of all votes cast—to nearly reelect a narcissistic, predatory charlatan who accumulated immense power by repeating age-old, bigoted, malevolent, and dishonest tropes.
—Margaret Peacock and Erik L. Peterson
There are many facets to the grotesqueness of Donald Trump’s America, and his desperation to profit from militarization is certainly one of them. Blind militarism is the legacy of 9/11, not something caused by Trump, despite the panicked revisionism that Trump and Trump alone is the source of the country’s pathologies. It isn’t his America at all. Trump attempted to claim himself as the military’s original champion by demanding an unquestioned loyalty and deference to it but its ubiquity in the culture is also not of his doing, even if he did spend the first year of his presidency unsuccessfully trying to garner support for a military parade worthy of a third-world despot, but finally succeeding in the embarrassment in his third. For all of his incompetence and crassness, Trump has provided convenient cover for the decades that preceded him, and his existence represents not a root but a culmination of decline obvious to anyone not actively engaged in the soothing ritual of avoidance.
Memetic strategies can challenge power, but the opposition adapts . . . [M]emes are a media strategy above all, and like any media, they can be used to communicate different kinds of messages. The ability to quickly generate narratives on the internet reflects a strength and a weakness: rather than simply censor overtly, governments and countermovements can create alternative narratives based on rumors, falsified information, and distraction, generating media popularly known as “fake news” but that perhaps more accurately should be called misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.
—An Xiao Mina
I’ll admit that it’s something of a personal pet peeve that the word atonement is thrown around as a synonym for forgiveness in popular discourse. In my tradition, forgiveness is something that people can grant to other people (whether they are informed of it or not, as we’ve discussed). But atonement is, in the framework of my tradition, something that happens in connection with the divine. And, as we’ve seen, if you’ve hurt someone else, atonement is up for discussion only after you’ve done all the work that must be done with regard to repair, apology, and amends.
—Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg
Despite punchy proclamations of inclusivity and anti-racism, most of the men who joined the Proud Boys when it was formed in 2016 were white, straight, and aggrieved. They embodied the profile fleshed out in Michael Kimmel’s study of the contemporary crisis of masculinity in America: white men of overlapping generations with faith in the American Dream who came of age “believing they would inevitably take their places somewhere on the economic ladder, simply by being themselves.” They never realized or had to comprehend the extent to which the “deck was stacked in their favor for generations.” They are hostile to notions of equality and diversity, which promise not to improve their lot but to humiliate and displace them. This nagging sensation of dispossession and impotence, Kimmel argues, “is the source of their rage.”
—Alexandra Minna Stern
George Zimmerman and Alex Michael Ramos are not isolated examples of Latinos harboring racialized violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center has noticed that there is a disturbing trend of more Latinos joining White supremacist hate groups. These Latinos include people like Christopher Rey Monzon, a twenty-two-year-old Cuban American, associated with the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South. Monzon was arrested weeks after Charlottesville for charging at protesters in a separate Florida demonstration. Nick Fuentes, a nineteen-year-old student who hosts an alt-right podcast called America First, also participated in the Charlottesville protests. In an interview with National Public Radio, Juan Cadavid, a Colombian-born Californian who now goes by the name Johnny Benitez, shared how he is an advocate for what he called “white identity politics”—which includes embracing the “14 Words” slogan used by White supremacists: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Finally, the January 6, 2021, terrorist attack on the US capitol included Latino members of the White supremacist group Proud Boys (including but not limited to Bryan Betancur, Louis Colon, Nicholas DeCarlo, Gabriel Garcia, and William Pepe). Disturbingly, the Proud Boys’ chairman is Cuban American Enrique Tarrio.
—Tanya Katerí Hernández
Reagan’s communications director Patrick Buchanan said it best: “Donald Trump is a conservative populist and the direct descendant and rightful heir to Ronald Reagan.” Reagan’s legacy survives in the form of crushing poverty, prisons overflowing with poor people of color, and a nation plagued by profound racial strife and socioeconomic inequities. In reconsidering Reagan and the conservative movement that emerged in tandem with the civil rights movement, Reagan’s racist politics and policies cast a blight on his legacy, and have ensured that the color line will continue to be a central problem of American life well into the twenty-first century. This legacy is something Reagan’s acolytes can no longer ignore.
—Daniel S. Lucks