There’s not much that can be added to the commentary that’s already been stated about the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
But like so many tragedies that we’ve too often experienced in recent years, a pattern has emerged from that horrific day that threatens to again undermine the important lessons we should all be focused on after a blatant attack on free elections.
Here’s pretty much how scenarios unfold on social media after such events.
• We come together briefly to acknowledge a wrongdoing and express our sorrow or our “thoughts and prayers” for those directly affected by the tragedy.
• Slowly but surely, we start pointing fingers and hurling accusations against those we believe to be responsible, and most importantly, their followers. This is usually tied to political beliefs.
• Lines start to be drawn.
• Our sorrow and pain starts turning to anger.
• Some of those accused of being enablers concede they made a mistake and vow to correct it.
• Overwhelmingly, most on the side of the accused dig their heels in and look for a way to defend their convictions.
• The dreaded “Whataboutism” takes place.
In this latest fiasco, many who have supported President Donald Trump said they disagreed with the rioters who stormed the Capitol, but they then counterbalance that statement by asking why more people didn’t speak out against protests and destruction of property last summer during the height of racial injustice demonstrations.
The classic “Whataboutism” play.
I’m not a father (except to two cats who adopted me) but I know parents are quite familiar with this strategy. Johnny gets scolded by Pops for not mowing the lawn, and Johnny reminds his father that he didn’t yell at his brother when he was a day late taking out the trash.
Of course the dispassionate can immediately notice the fault of this retort — that having an overgrown lawn and an overflowing trash can are both bad and that one doesn’t justify the other. But for the Johnnys out there that just want the Pops off of their backs, it seems like a legit defense.
But it’s not, and especially when we’re comparing the destruction of private property to an attempted coup.
It’s chilling to even write that word, but we’re at a decisive point in our history and it’s a time to state exactly what’s happening. Damaging a business is wrong. It’s not even on the same playing field as trying to reverse the most important part of our republic — the ability to choose our leaders.
“Whataboutism” is a weak play under normal circumstances, and it’s infuriating now. It’s also something that can be addressed.
Joe Biden will have opportunities once he’s sworn in as President to shape the path of our country for generations to come. But if he’s to sincerely make a lasting impact, he will have to ruffle some feathers both in his own party and of those who have pledged unwavering loyalty to Trump.
He can start by calling for an election audit. I fully believe the election was legit and Biden won rather easily, but his presidency will begin with a sizable portion of the population believing that Trump was cheated. There are some people who have been so deceived they wouldn’t believe Biden won if there was video of each vote being cast, but an audit would provide substantial and undeniable proof that Trump lost.
And while some Democrats might balk at that idea, an audit could also help their party in the future in that it could show that mail-in voting is safe and fair.
Biden can call for an end to destructive forms of protest and push for laws to be enacted that will severely punish those who deviate from a Constitutionally-protected practice into a crime. Some Democrats also won’t like that, but again, strategically, it could help their cause by removing an arrow from the quiver of Republicans who want to paint the party as a bunch of out-of-control protesters who want to burn down the country.
This should have occurred last summer, but too many corporations and politicians were consumed with White Guilt. They’d ignored racism for so long that they fell over each other in their rush to attempt to correct it, and in doing so, excused some bad actions such as the all-out assault on federal buildings in Portland.
Overwhelmingly, protests in places like Louisville were peaceful. But the “what about” crowd has used those times when a few protesters committed criminal actions to excuse a sea of MAGA supporters pushing their way into the Capitol.
Biden should also call for more restrictions on the giant tech companies that rule our new world. It’s a natural progression and what was eventually required of newspaper, radio and television.
We cannot function in a society where we are bombarded by lies, misrepresentations and propaganda. Social media is the most powerful communication tool on the planet. The private companies that own the platforms must be held accountable for what they allow to be communicated to anyone who has access to a cell phone, tablet or computer. It should have happened long before Trump egged on extremists with lies.
But these are just steps that can be taken to encourage sensible thought and action. Ultimately, We the People are responsible for our future. Judging by our rhetoric and the events of last week, we are the biggest threat to ourselves.
If we don’t rid ourselves of this political and idealogical war we’re waging on each other, “Whataboutism” will be the least of our worries.