We’ve been warned

Dear President Biden,

You’re doing an admirable job staying out of the Historic 2nd Trump Impeachment Fray, but I’m guessing it’s been hard and got much harder once you saw the video the House Managers showed yesterday. It’s brutal, that video. Literally. I made myself watch it last night and found myself semi-distracting by tracking which newsfeed tag was being shown on the footage. I was paying attention to the content and didn’t start doodling or looking at random paperwork, but giving my brain a little something extra to do provided a buffer from the brutality and fearsomeness of the raw rage.

Right after watching it I felt confused about the decisions around the aspects of the attempted self-coup that were and weren’t given lots of time since so much of the film focused on the crowds, the breaching of the Capitol, and the attacks on Capitol and DC police rather than what was going on with lawmakers and staff. I did recognize Pramila Jayapal in the frame for an instant and there was some footage of Pence and others immediately before the breach, but I’d guess there was less than a minute total of the 13+ minute film where lawmakers were visible. It’s entirely possible that there was no decision to be made if little other footage of them was captured.

I think though, that the decision to focus on the enormous, venom-spewing, door-battering, window-smashing, noose-hanging, elected official-hunting, police-battering crowd was deliberate.

The people the video was trying to reach – GOP Senators, the portion of Trump’s base that might be open to re-evaluating his claims of a stolen election and of the insurrection, and the US populace at large – needed to see the raging crowd. The raging, seething crowd that Trump let loose and that was hell bent on vengeance, that wanted to draw and quarter Mike Pence and Speaker Pelosi – that’s what needed to be squarely in the foreground.

The GOP Senators were there when it happened. They know what it was like inside the Capitol that day. They did or didn’t feel personally threatened and have managed any lingering feelings about the day however they’ve needed to, including convincing themselves it was no biggie. They’ve publicly disrespected the Democratic lawmakers and staff (and the Capitol and DC police) who have talked about being traumatized by the ordeal. Seeing images of what happened inside the Capitol would almost certainly have zero chance of moving them off their death grip on Trump’s right ankle. But maybe, just maybe seeing extended footage of that raging, ballistic crowd storming the building, using American flags to break windows and to bludgeon police, that crowd that was hunting them all – maybe those images could finally break through their denial and pierce their tiny little hearts a tiny little bit. If they had the courage to look at the footage, that is.

For the portion of Trump’s voter base that isn’t so far gone that they might be reachable, showing the full tilt violence of the attack on the Capitol was much more likely to pull for some reckoning than images of the terrorists with their feet up on desks or taking selfies with sympathetic Capitol police. Again, maybe, just maybe seeing all those MAGA hats, Trump sweatshirts, Trump flags, and fucking Confederate flags worn and carried by raging people desecrating the Capitol and being used to overwhelm the police force on the ground, might break through the layers of lies and the brainwashing to grease some critical thinking gears. Maybe.

When it comes to all of US at large, I think the emphasis on the crowd forces us to face just how close we were to total disaster, how close we were to hundreds of our elected officials and their staff being killed or seriously harmed. We were on the brink and just because it didn’t tip over into total disaster this time, doesn’t mean it won’t next time. We’ve been warned.

May we not take the safety of our Republic for granted.
May we be willing to wrestle with what that crowd and the GOP’s cowardice mean for US.
May we hold strong in the face of our stark reality.
May we accept that we aren’t even close to out of the woods yet.

Tracy Simpson

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