If symbols matter, January 6, 2021 may have been the worst day in American history since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And that murder and the other presidential assassinations before it focused insane hatred on one man, not on the American nation itself.
Given the targets of the people who mobbed the national capitol building, who hoped to terrify the Congress and prevent it from doing its Constitutional duty, who planned to nullify the Electoral College vote that made Joe Biden our next president — just consider all the capital letters in those phrases — it’s clear this was an attack on the American government, the democratically elected heart of the American nation. Yet the folks responsible for this assault on American values love to call themselves “patriots.”
To the degree this is more than simple self-delusion, it is evidence that they are indeed patriots, but of an unAmerican, counter-American nation called Trump, where the coin of the realm is unearned, illegitimate, but damn near perpetual grievance. The Trump national anthem is a whine.
These people brandishing Confederate flags and dressed as Thor, the Bare-Chested Bison are, in the words of RAND Corporation analyst Brian Michael Jenkins, “diehards whose fantasies of a stolen election are still being fueled. … A continuing deep sense of injury coupled with an unrealistic assessment of their own power is always a bad combination. Defiance,” he says, “is not easily put back in the box.”
Which is the very idea that led a recent Washington Post report penned by another frequent HERE& THERE guest Shane Harris: “President Trump’s incitement of his supporters before their attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 has galvanized a nationwide extremist movement … determined to disrupt the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden … for months — and possibly years, according to U.S. officials and independent experts.” If January 6 was a very bad day for America, it seems to presage worse days to come.
For me, two questions are paramount here – who were the people in the mob and how were they turned into a lethal weapon?
Criminologist and civil rights attorney Brian Levin is a professor of criminal justice and director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino where he specializes in analysis of hate crime, terrorism and legal issues. Prof. Levin began his academic career as a professor at Stockton College in New Jersey in 1996.
Previously, Professor Levin served as Associate Director-Legal Affairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch/Militia Task Force in Montgomery, Al.; Legal Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnic and Racial Violence in Newport Beach, Ca. and as a corporate litigator for the law firm of Irell & Manella. He was also a New York City Police Officer in the Harlem and Washington Heights sections of Manhattan during the 1980s.