America Moving Forward


Iman Baber

   There has been one constant in my household over the entirety of quarantine: the drone of the news playing from the TV; all morning, all afternoon, all evening, until we practically have the cycle of headlines memorized and can repeat the stories of the day, word by word. 

   In the chaos of the last few months, staying constantly updated with the news felt like a necessity. Jan. 6 started no differently. We ate our late breakfast of eggs, toast, and chai while watching members of Congress argue over the certification of the Presidential Election and Georgia State Senate Runoffs. Then, a sudden, abrupt, unfamiliar occurrence in today’s news: silence. Panicked, tense silence. 

   Our heads snapped up just to see members of the House scrambling for cover. The image was then wiped away by “BREAKING NEWS” to introduce the anchor, stammering in a shocked tone that they had just received updates from the situation outside the Capitol. The next few hours were a jarring whirlwind of camera cuts between shocked pundits offering commentary and the violence unfolding on the Capitol grounds. 

  Stormed our nation’s capital. 

   I was shocked by how large the crowd was. 

   Broken windows. 

   Did that guy just throw a plank of wood through the glass?

   Stole papers and pedestals and national secrets.

   Why did that guy put his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk?

   Put our Senators and Representatives in mortal danger.

   I watched members of Congress as they huddled underneath seats on the House Floor. 

   Were those gas masks they were holding?

   Killed a US Capitol Police Officer. 

   On Feb. 2, 2021, US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was laid to rest in honor at the US Capitol Rotunda.

   Took selfies while wearing a Confederate flag as a cape.  

   In the following weeks there was no shortage of commentary, analyses, and articles, each reiterating how the riot was an insurrection – a direct attack on the very foundation of our democracy. 

   While these reflections on the event are certainly not wrong, I must admit that I’ve grown weary of the rather redundant symbolic interpretations. It feels as though what happened is being taken at its face value. 

   The Siege of the Capitol bluntly packaged and threw the truth about the state of our nation at our faces. There’s too much to be said about what happened. But, I want to take a moment to focus on the two factors that were truly the most alarming: white supremacy and the power of misinformation. 

   As AP News reports, “ [a]mid the American flags and Trump 2020 posters at the U.S. Capitol …  were far more sinister symbols: A man walking the halls of Congress carrying a Confederate flag. Banners proclaiming white supremacy and anti-government extremism. A makeshift noose and gallows ominously erected outside.” In addition to outwardly bearing symbols of hatred, many of those present at the Capitol had ties to extremist and white nationalist groups such as the Groyper Army and the Proud Boys. 

   The threat of danger from such groups has only been rising the last few years – they account for 73 percent of deaths caused by extremist-related violence since Sept. 12, 2001

   Yet, there they were: openly carrying hateful symbols and arms, marching through the halls of the Capitol Dome and being saluted by a standing member of Congress. 

   Many of those present at the Capitol also held ties to the notorious conspiracy theory QAnon. One such individual is Jake Angeli, also known as the “QAnon Shaman,” whose painted face and horned-fur hat became synonymous with what unfolded on Jan. 6. These individuals believe “that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media,” as reported by the BBC.

   Many were also quick to draw comparisons between the response of law enforcement at this riot and the Black Lives Matter protests last summer

   Let’s be honest: if it was any other group of people at the Capitol, the outcome would have been very different. 

   This is all, frankly, terrifying. Now, with a new administration, our nation is eager to move forward, but we can’t afford to forget or be desensitized to what happened. 

   Because, if the Capitol Riot has proven anything, it is that while the former president may be gone, the culture that created and supported him is not.  

   Take for example, Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Representative has risen to infamy for her racist statements, harassing survivors of the Parkland shooting, and liked social media posts which openly called for the execution of Democratic lawmakers. She previously also expressed belief in QAnon. The rhetoric employed by Greene (an elected official) and individuals who carry similar beliefs only show how prevalent violence and bigotry have become in our nation’s discourse. 

   The factors that cultivated the Capitol Riot are long-running, complicated, and deeply intertwined in our nation’s history. And, America is still gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused massive unemployment, death, and pain. With the ushering in of a new Administration and Congress, I hope we all fight the urge to trust things “will go back to normal.” 

   They won’t on their own. Our democracy and society begs our attention. Things don’t just happen – they are created slowly, building over decades of rifts and divisions and broken systems. 

   I trust America will begin to move forward. 

   But not before taking a good look at what has happened these last few years.