I spent most of yesterday celebrating the state of Georgia’s surprise Senate election results. Charlotte, Reece, + Luca spent the day playing with friends. Eric worked. We ate dinner and celebrated the birthday of our favorite one year old and then it was bedtime for the kids. Eric and I stayed awake to watch the Presidential certification process take place-knowing there was going to be some (attention seeking) drama. It was supposed to be the kind of tired drama that happens in our aged Capitol building-where a few politicians felt like slowing down the inevitable vote to certify Joe Biden as 46th President. I was going to roll my eyes and feel frustrated with a side of vindication. Or vindicated with a side of frustration. Either way, Georgia did well and it was going to be a good day + an uneventful night.
Somewhere between rolling my eyes + Eric falling asleep on the couch, dynamics shifted away from political process and the uneventful night theory went out the door. Donald Trump supporters were storming the Capitol building and CNN had more questions than answers. They weren’t yet calling it an attempted coup or describing the crowd as domestic terrorists, but I knew what I was watching. You see, our little American family has lived on the continent of Africa long enough to have been warned of events like these transpiring overseas. We’ve been taught to pay close attention when politics start looking chaotic here. They’ll tell you it’s these international countries that lack logic + stability-therefore genocide + civil unrest are imminent. But the caveat is exclusively for post-colonized countries (which some people still refer to as third-world.)
Like any good ex-patriot, I’ve read about coups and I’ve remained on guard, never mind Zambia has never been at war with themselves on anyone else. Our neighbors justifiably take great pride in their posture for peace and we’ve generally felt safer here than America. Regardless, in my mind, a coup taking place in Zambia has forever been more likely than a coup happening in America. And that’s based solely on people telling me so. I don’t even know who those people are, but it seemed to be absolute truth that America’s division wasn’t the same as what we’ve seen in South America or the Middle East or Africa. America’s unrest was the stable variation-the ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ that remains disciplined-unlike the rest of the world. In fact, it’s the whole wide world that relies on America to uphold their law + order. Lest anyone forgets our self-imposed place + power in the world.
And while I haven’t subscribed to that propaganda, I was still shocked by the scenes unfolding at the Capitol. The blatant disrespect + arrogance displayed by white men + women who were creating chaos to prove their allegiance to a delusional white supremacist was 1. both expected all along and 2. came out of nowhere. It only took a few minutes to realize their dissent was hardly organized-they were wrecking a building to prove they could. A group of bullies on a glorified tour of the Capitol building, they had no vision for what to do with all that energy. It will prove to have been a desperate last attempt to demonstrate that their racism + privilege had proximity to power.
As I watched CNN and texted friends in the US, I quickly learned that my attempt at being a pacifist has its limits and they had been reached. In a most honest moment, I was outspoken about wanting to meet the thugs I was seeing on television with my fist to their face. I was angry + sad-and outside of that, it all felt so complicated.
And then we woke up this morning and the fall out is so many Americans feeling undone by yesterday’s events-rightfully so. We don’t know what to think, let alone what to say. We aren’t sure how to reconcile it all-so we write yesterday off as anti-American. I’ve heard it said a few times over, ‘surely that display isn’t a characteristic of our democracy.’ But I’m afraid the hateful rhetoric + fear mongering + racism + sexism + xenophobia that has been championed on stage and in the Oval Office simply found community with one another. They took their unified sense of superiority and chaos to Washington D.C to challenge a transition of power process for the first time in 120+ years. Upending an event + process that has been historically peaceful might feel un-American because it’s hardly looked so chaotic before. But the behavior and prejudices that incited the coup are woven into the fabric of the United States of America.
Outside of yesterday’s event, all those rioters are still racist + sexist + xenophobic in their everyday lives. They bring chaos-on small scales-to particular people every single day. Our black brothers + sisters are telling us that’s the case. Our brown brothers + sisters are telling us. Our less able-bodied, LGBTQIA, non-Christian brothers and sisters are telling us, too. And the more boxes we check in the hierarchy of power (white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, Christian, cisgender etc..) the more difficult it is to recognize what is happening around us.
Maybe the domestic terrorists of yesterday aren’t so emboldened when they’re not part of a MAGA collective-but they remain intolerant + oppressive, still. The collective of yesterday goes back to being teachers, managers, and law enforcement today. They’re raising babies + buying groceries + greeting their neighbors. They’re asking you to pray for our nation and are ‘so tired of politics.’ They’re nice people who want to go back to ‘the good ol’ days’ and they think political correctness is fragile.
Yesterday was offensive for so many reasons. Top of my list are how obviously unequal power dynamics are in America. That accountability looks different depending on the crowd-though the implication is that it’s never based on color. That black oppression is borne out of white privilege like mine.
I’m offended by the ways Christ’s name was taken + displayed in vain yesterday. That I can disassociate that behavior + prejudice from the person + savior of Jesus-but the loudest voices are trying to align Christ with the Republican Party and its being bought HOOK.LINE+SINKER. That the marriage of nationalism + Christianity has birthed Americanism that many of us don’t want to be represented by. I’m offended it’s seen as ungrateful to say as much.
I’m offended by today’s very particular calls for peace + prayer. I’m offended by people trying to disguise their right-wing allegiances by playing devil’s advocate and offering the benefit of the doubt to these domestic terrorists and our intolerable President. I’m offended that the status quo favors neutrality and today’s pleasantries are evidence of that truth.
I’m offended that I wouldn’t have guessed an attempted coup in 2021 would have happened in America before Zambia. That I subscribed to the narrative of American exceptionalism while being so unnecessarily critical of a continent that hardly gets to tell its own story. I’m struggling to reconcile that today’s messages + words of empathy and sorrow coming from our dear Zambian neighbors are so unfamiliar and gracious and meaningful that I’m brought to tears.