an attempted coup. in the united states of america*

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.  

For what it’s worth

I’m an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump-though not from the perspective of a lifelong Democrat. I wore a home-made puff-painted ‘JOHN KERRYS GOT NOTHING t-shirt to high school on election day in 2004-and in 2005 registered myself a proud Republican. I’ve changed both my mind and affiliation since then-but have settled on Independent for now. I never want to subscribe so fully to a party that I lose focus (on Christ as my ultimate representative + authority.)

I want to be careful but unapologetic here. I think I’ll start out critical and end with a more considerate tone. Let’s see how this goes.

I think Donald Trump is the loneliest man in the room.

He doesn’t have true friendships.

Or community.

Or accountability.

The combination is dangerous.

His influence has proved harmful.

The way we vote in a week seals our fate for future conversations. People who vote for DT a second time will not be able to undo that allegiance. 2016 was different because there was an appeal about potentially electing a leader who wasn’t (technically) a politician. It was worth a shot. Having voted for him in 2016 is one thing. But we’ve learned too much since then to justify re-electing a man with his character and lack of conviction. He takes up so much space in the room.

I’m distracted by his arrogance.

I’m overwhelmed by his constant fearmongering.

I’m offended by his cronies. And the way they excuse his behavior.

I’m shocked by how much emotional + mental energy I (still) spend disliking him.

I’m also cautiously optimistic. I think we’re days away from Donald Trump losing the 2020 election. His reign is coming to an end and his presence will soon lack power. And while the Republican Party might still wish to represent concepts like pro-life and Supreme Court appointees and Christian freedom for years to come, the history books will likely leave most of that out. Instead, Donald Trump will be the leader who was divisive. Bigoted. Impeached. And our children and their children will have many questions.

America is only getting better as we move away from our starting blocks. It doesn’t get more oppressive than genocide and enslaving men, women, + children. We’re just starting to tell the truth about our history and how the ramifications of that brutality are still present today. We’re not going back that direction-and DT will only ever represent an administration that tried endlessly to do so.   

Thank God for a checks + balance system. For term limits. For choices (even if they’re not awesome.) And for the example of Christ. Who both directly and indirectly has a lot to say about how our policy + government should operate. Our model in this lifetime is to bring Heaven to earth + to meet the needs of the marginalized. To be inclusive + to share. Our ever-powerful political system is one platform and space to engage thoughtfully. To use our privilege + our vote to love thy neighbor as we love thyself.

While the election isn’t the ‘end all be all,’ I’m hopeful that once it’s behind us we can breathe a bit easier. That we can rest easier, too. And make space for things outside of Trump vs Biden. As we move forward, I want to spend time learning how our history has informed our current political landscape. I want to know more about the electoral college + the Supreme Court + how bills get passed. I want to follow grassroots movements + reimagine our broken systems. I want us to be better. To be great. Because while we haven’t gotten there yet, we’re inching in a better direction.

Here’s to our political future. May these past four years have exposed injustice + the many systems that need endless improvement. May we recognize the enormous privilege we have in caring for those around us. And may our understanding of ‘those around us’ continue to grow and expand.