The Whole World Was Watching – January 6, 2021

By Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed

Some of us also have been watching what I hope was the last act in a dangerous display of violence fueled by years of dishonesty, threats, the vilification of fellow citizens, and finally an attempted coup. Do not count on it.

The attempt to overthrow the United States government and that was what was occurring, has for some reason surprised people, even though the threads of such a conspiracy have been publicly available – including the nutty conspiracy theory that the riot was an Antifa plot – (note to file: Antifa adherents could not organize lunch!). The domestic terrorists that attacked the Congress knew precisely where they were headed, and what they intended to accomplish.

We have found it difficult in the best of times to achieve the lofty objectives expressed in our Constitution and other revered documents. I have observed the growth of a movement that seems to contemplate abandoning our constitutional aspirations altogether. I have cited indicators that such an event as occurred in the Capitol during the Electoral College certification might be inevitable. Here are just two examples from the past five years (there are more on the Center’s website).

November 2016: “After this year’s national election, a sizable portion of our population will feel devastated and perhaps even betrayed. When Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960 (my earliest clear recollection) and in the years since, if your candidate lost there was always the realization that the sun would still rise, the country would somehow survive, and that the system was stronger than an individual election cycle. The sense of loss ultimately faded.”

June 2020: “Consider this: how huge a leap is it from refusing to honor and enforce existing laws to threatening to take up arms against the state or national government (which has and is happening), to refusing to accept election results?”

These pronouncements might have seemed “over the top” at the time. My purpose in using this privileged space is to suggest that January 6’s coup attempt may not be a “one-off” occurrence: no, what occurred manifested a sense of hatred and disconnect from democratic values that are as old as our nation. Its re-emergence required only an authority figure to empower and enable it. One did, and his enablers were equally complicit by their silence.

Emergency managers and their public safety colleagues cannot ignore that domestic terrorism will continue to be a longstanding source of concern.  In fact, combating it may become a never-ending mission. It is likely it will take all of us who believe in democracy to crush it.

Clearly, the world has been watching. Casey Stengel once said “Never make predictions, especially about the future” – good advice. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a Nazi victim) left this thought for us: “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Switching the channel will not work; we need to ensure a happy ending or face a future we would prefer to avoid.