Lawbreaking, Seriousness of Purpose, and Consequences
In the 12 days since Donald Trump launched an armed insurrection on the heart of our democracy — domestic terrorism that growing evidence indicates was well planned and had some points of coordination inside the federal government — there have been a few ways he and his have been held to account:
- Trump was impeached for a second time by all of the Democrats and ten Republicans in the House
- Some state legislators who violated the 14th Amendment by participating in sedition are facing consequences ranging from removal from committees to possible expulsion from their office
- Virtually all of mainstream social media has banned Donald Trump and an array of his most egregious followers — some of them permanently.
- Some social media sites and a few of the companies that enable the internet as we know it have “deplatformed” some of the alternative social media that the domestic terrorists and would-be seditionists would otherwise go to organize. Amazon Web Services kicked Parler off the internet after Apple and Google kicked it out of their app stores. (Parler is back up… on Russian servers, of course.)
- The companies that processed donations to Trumpworld and powered its merchandise sales (Stripe and Shopify) cut him off.
- A few corners of corporate America found their bright line: The PGA dumped Trump. Bill Bellichek declined a Medal of Freedom. Even Home Depot co-founder billionaire and mega Trump fan Ken Langone threw him under the bus in the press.
- Some of the highest-profile mouthpieces for Trump and his nonsense are finding it difficult to get respectable work (for now, and not all of them.)
If we ever wondered what line Trump had to cross to make a few of his high profile network of enablers jump ship, it turns out the line is literally attacking American democracy and leading an actual armed mob to storm the seat of US government and kill elected officials (those were the plans) in order to stay in power. That’s not the line for most elected Republicans, though. Noted.
While Trump and all of those who actively participated in sedition deserve all of this and quite a bit more, the individuals who decided to storm the capital, beat up police officers, vandalize, steal, and otherwise desecrate the house of democracy should face severe consequences as well.
And many of them are: so far something like 300 people have been arrested and face charges.
What sticks with me right now, though, is the whining these people are doing about facing the so far minuscule consequences for their actions.
- Republicans, in their speeches opposing impeachment, were angrier about Trump not being able to tweet than they were about having to flee to a secure location for fear of being shot or hung on a literal gallows at the hands of his (and ostensibly their own) supporters.
- There are admittedly funny but also truly discomfiting videos from the day of the attack of people on the capital grounds whining that the police tear-gassed them as they were climbing through broken windows into the capital building.
- There are, again, funny but also really truly not funny videos and other social media posts from people who participated in the attack and are now mad that they’re on a no-fly list and can’t go back to DC to do it again at the inauguration.
- And of course, there are the videos and selfies — so many videos and selfies — of people in the act of breaking all kinds of laws, posted in blithe confidence that filming themselves in the commission of crimes wouldn’t be a bad idea.
In addition to the head-shaking levels of weirdness about all of that, there’s something disconcerting about the unseriousness of the underpinnings of the “protest” these people are engaged in that’s revealed in their expectation that they won’t be subject to *any* consequences for their participation.
I’m reminded of the late great Rep. John Lewis, who knowingly and willingly faced down fire hoses, beatings, and 24 arrests to stand against injustice. And I haven’t ever seen or heard about a word of whining from him about it — so serious was his cause and its intellectual and moral underpinnings that the he understood that legal consequences of fighting for it were part of the battle.
I’m reminded of the BLM protests this summer — millions of people took to the streets in full knowledge of the risks they were taking and did it anyway, for months on end. They knew they were risking not just possibly violent police response — legal and otherwise — but also a deadly virus. And they did it anyway, so clearly just their cause and in many cases so clearly tied to their very lives and those of their community.
And I’m reminded today, in my annual rereading of letter from a Birmingham jail, that the seriousness and worthiness of a cause and the willingness to face consequences in the context of fighting for it are inextricably linked.
So, today, on this day of remembrance for a scion of justice I’m reflecting not just on how very far we are from all that he worked for and died for, but on the tragedy of the entitlement and lack of worthiness among those who continue to fight against it.
Later this week I’m going to build on this and connect it to some deeper big political questions as they’re playing out at the intersection of big money, big technology, and big personalities. But for today, I’ll leave it here, with hopes for a violence-free Inauguration Day and better things coming.
If you’ve ever met me you know that I adore Los Angeles, wine, and the LA Public Library. If you read my book reviews last year you know that one of the standouts was Won’t Lose This Dream, by Andrew Gumbel. Here’s a screenshot of my review:
You can imagine how excited I am to host an event that brings all three together! On Thursday, January 28th @ 7pm pacific time (sorry east-coasters!), I’m hosting an event to benefit the LA Public Library Foundation’s Young Literati program, featuring a conversation with none other than Andrew Gumbel. The amazing duo of winemakers who founded Angeleno Wine Company will kick us off with a few minutes on the remarkable history of wine in Los Angeles (true story: LA was wine country long before Napa was!)