Sunday, June 23, 2024

Reflections on January 6

Dubai – As the Pandemic-struck world stepped into 2021 with renewed hope and optimism, it never in its wildest dream was prepared for what it saw happening in the United States of America on January 6th, when an attempted coup was led by the United States president, in the form of a violent riot that attacked the Capitol Building.

The right-wing mob disrupted the proceedings that would have put a seal on the final results of the presidential elections of 2020, declaring Joe Biden as the newly elected President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice President. As the world watched in horror at the attempted violation of the constitution and the voters’ mandate, it also exposed the deep-rooted hatred instilled in Americans against people of color.

This underlying racial discrimination is a part of the United States. The images that came on the television revived memories of the BLM movement, which was more peaceful in retrospect, yet received aggressive, violent behavior from the officers. The current mob attack at Capitol Hill only seemed like an offshoot of this repressed white supremacy.

Immediately after, Michelle Obama wrote, “What if these rioters had looked like the folks who go to Ebenezer Baptist Church every Sunday? What would have been different ?” The former first lady condemned the “gulf” between the violent mob of Trump supporters that rampaged Capitol Hill on January 6th, and the more assertive actions taken by police, in response to a generally peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in American cities last year.

The ‘cheering of the mob during the rampage’ exposed the dangerous face of a party with absolute disregard for democracy, order and the State. This day was “a fulfillment of the wishes of an infantile and unpatriotic president who cannot handle the truth of his own failures,” wrote Michelle Obama.

What came as shocking to me as a non- American citizen was this, that a country which spent $720 billion for its defense could be toppled over by an unruly resident mob that looked like a bunch of drunken rogues on the loose, in Braveheart and Viking costumes. The images that came were disturbing, people armed with shotguns and rifles, waving Trump banners; symbolic of some neo-Nazi movement.

Coming from the subcontinent, I could fathom this happening in Uttar Pradesh/Bihar, India: not in Washington DC. I was not prepared for such ‘regime change’ action here, certainly not in a country that thought of itself as ‘Superior’. I am sure all the Banana Republics were having the last laughs. I prayed the rest of the World didn’t take this as accepted ‘regime change’ obstinate behavior.

As a child, I was told the story of the ‘Blue faced fox,’ where a jungle fox wanders into a town and falls into the washerman’s bucket of water, with blue indigo water to whiten the white laundry. The fox jumps out of the bucket and runs back into the jungle. The other animals of the jungle look at the fox in awe and bow down in front of him. The bewildered fox looks at his image in the water and realizes that he is all blue in the face and body; he realizes that the animals think he is unique and therefore superior; hence he declares himself the king of the jungle.

After months, the monsoon comes, and it starts pouring, and the blue indigo washes off, revealing the real face of the sly fox to the jungle animals. They realize he was one amongst them, an imposter who had violated their trust, and throw him out of the jungle.

As Capitol Hill’s scenes started flashing across all television channels, this story came to my mind, the allegory uncanny. While there is a relief that finally, the ‘blue’ has washed off, and the demagoguery of the Trump administration comes to an end with this chaos, Americans should remember that it took 155 years after the civil war for the confederate flag to make it to the US Capitol building. How it made its way there is the shameful legacy that will be associated with Trump.

What remains are questions- questions about white supremacy, racism, and despotism, that will mark the face of American politics. It’s a clarion call for Americans and their leaders to look inwards at their own country and think about the racism, the ignorance and the system on the whole that has led them to this.

As I write this, I read Twitter has suspended Trump’s account due to “risk of further incitement of violence”, while Facebook has said that Mr. Trump’s account would be dismissed “at least” the remainder of his term. While all this looks good, we must not forget that the ‘incitement and provocation’ did not happen overnight. The implications of right-wing extremism on social media were there for everyone to see, but it was not being questioned as long as it benefited the mega-media powers. Ever heard of ‘when the ship sinks, the rats flee first?’ It’s time Americans ask basic questions, like how was this allowed in the first place?

Nothing describes it better than this tweet that I came across, “if the United States saw what the United States was doing, the United States would have immediately sent troops to save the United States, to restore order and democracy.”

It is time America understood itself first and restored order within itself before stepping up to save the world. We are fine, thank you, America; please take care of yourself.

Originally published in January 2021.

Author profile
Rituparna Mahapatra

Rituparna Mahapatra, is a writer based in Dubai. She taught English literature at Sambalpur University, Orissa and Delhi University. She worked briefly with Britannica India, and has contributed to many leading newspapers both regional and national. Currently she is editor-at-large UAE, of; and teaches creative writing in English.

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