Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: As I watched the Capitol Hill insurrection last Wednesday in horror and disgust, flags, signs, and symbols of racist, white supremacist, and extremist groups displayed along with Trump 2020 banner and American flags inside a US Capitol, the seat of power, Congress, Senate, the political heart of Washington DC under siege ” the last Citadel of American Democracy,” a stunning show of force for conspiracy groups, extremists, and a fringe movement of Trumpism, Making America Great Again (MAGA).
I visualized Lady Liberty’s torch burning bright—a beacon to call forth integrity, even from unlikely sources. May it burn as a backfire, so that those who work against the truth, liberty, and democracy find their acts turned against them; may they be faced with the unavoidable consequences of their actions!
Fatoumatta: I am simultaneously appalled and outraged by the violence and seditious assault at the United States Capitol on January 6, President Donald Trump’sinstigation of it, and his continuing fanning of the flames. What really must happen is that all those responsible for the January 9 historic act of fascist aggression be brought to justice. This mainly includes President Donald Trump and those in the military and police hierarchy who used their positions to facilitate horrific events. A coalition built on collusion between the police, elements of the Department of Defense, and a fascist mob has launched an unprecedented attack. The menace of the far right can only be decisively defeated by a militant, united front of the multinational working class.
Post-election violence is now an American reality that political charlatans like President Donald Trump and groups of Trumpians that are so far gone down this shithole of lies are seem irredeemable. They say nothing that makes sense and shut people down with the Bible verses carefully selected to suppress thought and support their lost cause.
Fatoumatta: I speak from my experience as someone who has witnessed and protested outside the United Nations headquarters in New York and White House and the Capitol in Washington, DC. Protesting is our right and responsibility, but we NEVER carried arms, and we NEVER threatened anybody’s—and we were generally met by overwhelming police force and mass arrests. We accepted that as of the philosophy of nonviolence, to accept the consequences of your actions. Now, we are faced with a President who refuses to accept the consequences, which is enabled by a party and gangs of the disaffected who can not accept the reality of their loss.
Fatoumatta: A fundamental tenet of democracy is the peaceful contest of ideas among fellow citizens under the law. After a free and fair election, when incumbents are defeated, a peaceful transfer of power must result. Through such democratic processes, fundamental freedoms are protected, and opportunity and justice are possible for all. I know from decades of experience that the job of democracy is never done and that democracy is fragile. However, we also know it is resilient.
I have seen the excellent results that can come when people get involved positively—and we see the alternative: rule by force and thuggery. I believe that the United States will soon begin a national healing period that will renew her democracy. As Americans continue on their difficult but historic journey to form and are perfect union home, I want to reaffirm my commitment to stand in solidarity with all those around the world who share democratic values and continue to fight against all those who would subvert them.
It is good to recommit to democracy. I feel hopeful about two Democrats US Senators elected, Raphael Warnock and Jon OOssoff’s won in Georgia. I am so grateful for all the work done on the ground—and especially for the leadership of Black women like Stacey Abrams, the goddess of democracy and electioneering, and the ubiquitous and indefatigable political strategists and Black Lives Matter activists Latosha Brown and Keisha Lance Bottoms to make it happen! A good day for democracy.
Fatoumatta: With all the words being bandied around, “Insurrection” “seems to be sticking. In my studies on Comparative Politics and International Terrorism module, an insurrection is defined in the policy as an armed rebellion against an established government where the insurrectionists have legitimate grievances that the government has completely failed to address. An insurrection usually targets the destruction of symbols of authority, not human life.
Terrorism, on the other hand, targets both and seeks to maximize the destruction that will yield the most attention. Many nations have been formed on the bloodbath of terrorism, including Israel and the US. They are then forever stuck with the burden of amassing power, explaining and defending themselves.
Fatoumatta: The riot at the Capitol last may have been an “attempt” at a coup, but only in the sense that, if you kick your foot against a stone building, you have made an “attempt” to knock the building down. Real coups are made by generals occasionally by colonels (as in Greece in 1967, though even that coup was initially led by a brigadier general in Africa and elsewhere, a rank of a Sergeant and Second Litunants staged coups) and never by raggedy-ass biker types wearing funny costumes. The riot as Nancy Pelosi’s real significance, somewhat to my surprise, has recognized was as a desperate upsurge of white supremacy. That is what it was about: not Donald Trump, or Joe Biden, or “anti-government” feeling, or “resentment of elites.” White supremacy. It will certainly not be the last major attempt to defend a white-supremacist regime that is feeling increasingly embattled, and it is not likely to be the most dangerous.
Invading Capitol Hill was not an act of insurrection. It was an intentional act of terrorism by organized militia with recorded proof of said intentions. Many Donald Trump followers did not intend to act on violence, but they followed the wave of those who intended to do so. These are angry white people from a forgotten America who believe any black person who breathes freely is stealing their oxygen. Many did not mind the violence. Terrorist groups count on this support of the gullible masses. To be clear, the groups that participated in the Capitol Hill takeover (Proud Boys and QAnon) are already recognized as terrorist groups by the FBI.
Now, because they intended to violently stop the legitimate transfer of power to a legitimately elected president, it makes January 6 both an act of terrorism and an attempted coup. So all you are trying to diminish this fact as a kerfuffle by a pack of wild dingoes hidden among innocent American sheep, snap out of it.
Fatoumatta: There is no question that President Trump has been a highly effective demagogue, establishing a virtually mystical bond with his followers who never comprised anything close to a majority of Americans, but who did include a substantial, significant minority. Fortunately, Trump was also lazy, ignorant, undisciplined, incurious, self-absorbed, strategically (though not tactically) imbecilic, and hardly at all interested in public policy (this is why the worst damage he did by far was to the federal judiciary, since here all he had to do was to copy the names sent by the Federalist Society and then let Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell do the actual work). Now people are saying: what if another demagogue comes along who is just as talented but NOT lazy, ignorant, etc.? Well, that is something to think about. However, we should remember that demagogues as talented as Donald Trump do not grow on trees. They are quite rare. In the modern era of American politics roughly, the past 75 years have been, we would say, only three demagogues of paramount national importance: Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, and Donald Trump.
Fatoumatta: Even though Donald Trump was the only one who made it to the White House ( Joe McCarthy was never really interested, and George Wallace knew it was beyond their grasp), we suspect that, in the long run, history will say that Joe McCarthy and George Wallace both had a more significant impact than Donald Trump. Of course, another such demagogue could come along tomorrow. Nevertheless, the odds are that it will be a long time before America sees one again. Nonetheless, I am confident in American institutions’ enduring strength and that any attempts to subvert American democracy will not succeed. Those involved in illegal activity trying to erode democracy and freedom must be held to account. Those Trumpian fascist mobs for assault on the last citadel of democracy should face justice and get away from empty platitudes about Trumpism.
Alagi Yorro Jallow