“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them (Members of Congress) and the people in this room. Too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
— Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone
The House Select Committee to investigate the 6 January attack on the Capitol met for the first time yesterday. I was able to watch nearly all of the emotionally charged, vivid, heart-breaking and exasperating testimony on TV. Officer Fanone was one of two Metropolitan Police Officers (MPD) from Washington DC who joined two officers from the Capitol Police Department to relate what happened during the domestic terrorists’ attack to overturn the results of the most secure election in our history. In the quote, Officer Fanone reflected the disappointment and resentment he and his colleagues feel as the majority of elected Republicans in Congress profess that the attempted coup was no big deal.
The testimony was chilling and brought home once again how close we came to losing our Republic. Had those officers failed in their duty, the past six months would have a completely different narrative. People think it was “no big deal” because the officers won. Had the terrorists won, many law makers would have been kidnapped, injured, or killed. We would live in a different world. They saved our democracy. And yet, senior elected officials willingly and knowingly disgrace those officers’ personal sacrifices.
In fact, and to their everlasting disgrace, prior to the testimony Republican leaders from the House of Representatives held a press conference and tried to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the attack. Further debasing themselves and demonstrating the depth of their moral depravity, during the hearing six other elected Republican members of Congress tried to hold a sham press conference in front of the building housing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to demand justice for the terrorists that conducted the attack. As of yesterday, 591 people have been arrested for various crimes related to the attack. However, to many elected Republicans those people are, in the words of those in front of the DOJ, “political prisoners” that are subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” Despite the fact that the attack on the Capitol may be one of the most documented crimes of its size in history — people just can’t resist taking selfies and posting them on social media — their seditious supporters claim that evidence of their innocence is being withheld.
If it is possible, the most despicable actions took place on a main stream media platform known for its unrelenting support of the disgraced ex-president. A certain “personality” mocked the police officers by handing out acting awards for their “performance” in relating the horrific beatings and abuse that they suffered on 6 January. Other “news” organizations with no regard for the truth “revealed” that the officers were actually actors playing a role. Yet another literally laughed at Officer Fanone’s statement that he suffered psychological trauma from his experience.
This is what our country has become. All in the name of a cult of personality for one man.
Unfortunately, I think it is deeper than that. It is a sickness in our country and the cult leader was, and is, able to exploit it for his own purposes. Likewise, the bulk of elected Republican officials are going along with it not because of any policies or principles, but because it suits their purposes to gain and retain power. They are fine with autocracy.
The tool for their power grab is race.
Without sounding too superficial or simplistic, the evidence is there. Roughly 99% of the terrorists attacking the Capitol were white and most were men. The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters were all known to have a part in fomenting the insurrection, and all are white supremacist groups. The focus of the new “election security” laws, faux audits, and “stop the steal” efforts are places like, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston and other large cities with large numbers of voters that are people of color. During the presidential debate the ex-president told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” School Boards across the country are fighting back against state legislatures that are limiting the elements of history that can be taught in schools. Using “Critical Race Theory” — a term they do not understand — as a code word for diversity, celebrating other cultures, appreciating the contributions of all Americans, teaching the ugly along with the beautiful, and as a catchall for any topic or fact about race relations in the United States that may make a white person feel “uncomfortable.” They would prefer that schools whitewash history. Literally.
Here is an example of the fact that many Republican law makers don’t even pretend to hide it anymore. Texas House Bill 241 calls for an audit of the November 2020 vote for all counties with a population over 415,000 people. There are 13 such counties, of which 10 voted for now President Biden. The bill’s sponsor says that his constituents are concerned about fraud in that election — even as earlier in the year Texas election officials fell all over themselves congratulating themselves on how smooth and secure the elections in Texas had been that fall.
Here is the punchline. When asked why not audit all of the counties in the state, the bill’s sponsor State Representative Steve Toth said, “What’s the point? I mean, all the small counties are red.”
The cult is destroying our country. It is a cancer. Cancer cannot be rooted out until it is identified, analyzed, and thoroughly destroyed and removed. The House Select Committee has important work to do and they must use due diligence to follow the facts wherever they lead. To the officers that testified yesterday, who stood on the front line and faced fascism in the flesh, they have no doubt that the facts will lead to positions of power. Power politicians may not have been on the front line abusing the police, but there were undoubtedly some or many behind the insurrection. As Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police put it yesterday when asked what he wanted the committee to do, he used the analogy that when somebody hires a hitman to conduct a murder, the hitman goes to jail and so does the person that hired the hit. “There was a hit carried out on January 6, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
We need to know who arranged, aided and abetted the hit, and hold them accountable, in order to bring our country back from the edge of darkness.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the opportunity to remember and honor our fellow citizens who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life. It is important at all times, but in my mind especially so now, to stop and think of this holiday as more than a long weekend or the unofficial start of summer. It can be a time for reflection on our history and to understand that it often takes lives and treasure to keep us all safe. The date was originally known as Decoration Day, and came into existence following the Civil War to honor those that died in that conflict. It officially became a federal holiday in 1971.
Unfortunately, as many of us have only recently come to know, 31 May is also the date for the beginning of the Tulsa Race Riot, as it was called originally, or the Tulsa Race Massacre as it is now known. (Historians believe that it was designated as a “riot” because insurance companies would not then have to pay for damages.) This year is the 100th anniversary of this horrible event. I was born in Tulsa Oklahoma, although I only lived there for a few months afterwards, but I became aware of the massacre only in recent years.
The beginnings of the incident are typical of the Jim Crow era in our country. In sum, a Black male teenager was accused of accosting a White female teenager in an elevator in the Drexel Building, one of the larger buildings in that part of town. It is believed that the Black man either tripped and fell against the White woman or accidentally stepped on her foot. She screamed and observers reported the “attack” to the police. The next day the young man was arrested and a lurid headline and story in the 31 May 1921 edition of the Tulsa Tribune inflamed the situation. (Note that the young woman never made a formal complaint about the incident and actually put into writing that nothing happened.) A white mob formed at the courthouse and the sheriff and his deputies had every belief that the young man would be lynched, so they barricaded themselves into the top floor of the courthouse to protect him. At the same time, approximately 75 African-American veterans arrived to protect the young Black man. Accounts vary as to what happened next, but a shot was fired and the situation quickly escalated.
According to an Oklahoma state Race Riot Commission formed in 2001 (later the name was changed to the Race Massacre Commission) municipal, county and state officials did nothing to defuse the situation. The young man in question disappeared — probably smuggled out of town by the sheriff and is believed to have gone to Kansas City.
On the night of 31 May to 1 June the white mob, many deputized and armed by local authorities, attacked the Black part of town known as Greenwood. Greenwood was also known as the “Black Wall Street” as it was probably the most prosperous Black enclave in the U.S. at the time. When the carnage stopped, about 300 Black Tulsans were killed, 800 injured, 6,000 Black Tulsans were arrested and interned in the Convention Hall and at the Fairgrounds, 35 city blocks of Greenwood were looted and then burned to the ground, and 10,000 Blacks were left homeless. It was one of the worst such incidents in our country, and there are still people alive that experienced it.
Until recently, every effort was made to cover it up and to pretend that it never happened. Official records disappeared and even archived newspapers covering the incident in Oklahoma had holes where stories of the massacre had been cut out. It was a lost memory, or so people in Oklahoma hoped, until the 1990’s when activists pushed the state legislature and in 2001 the Commission was formed. Schools in Oklahoma now discuss the massacre.
But will they continue to do so?
As part of the “see no evil so we did no evil” approach to history that state legislatures are taking around the country, this month Oklahoma passed a law that prohibits the teaching of “critical race theory.” (Although they were careful not to use those words in the law, the sponsors stated that was the impetus to the law.) Most people misunderstand what that theory entails. In short, it is a long-standing theory that tries to provide a framework for understanding how laws and social norms can perpetuate inequality in our country. Mostly white legislators and governors are using the term as a short hand phrase to include most discussions about racism and to attack diversity and inclusion training because it makes our country “look bad” and thus the law is needed as “a defensive measure against psychological warfare from those that hate America.”
Specifically, the Oklahoma law passed this month, and others like it in other states, dictates that public school classes should not include anything where “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” Well, that just about leaves out everything that may be of importance in discussing all of the facts about the history of our country. Any individual? Does that mean that one student complaining stops an entire class from studying a controversial topic? It is clearly aimed at protecting White Americans and completely ignores what may cause Black Americans or Native Americans “discomfort” or “anguish.”
Many school teachers and administrators are now scrambling to figure out what the law means, how to implement it, where the boundaries might be, and what the consequences are for crossing those boundaries. Most are in agreement that it will cause changes to, and in some cases totally eliminate, an array of classes. And who are the Thought Police that are going to enforce this law? So long academic freedom, hello Big Brother.
So under this law, how do schools in Oklahoma teach their students about the Tulsa Race Massacre? Surely the topic will cause some students discomfort, guilt or anguish. Does that mean that it isn’t taught?
If you wonder why the Black Lives Matter movement exists, perhaps one should take a look at what has happened to the Black community in the U.S. and the continued efforts to minimize or eliminate their experiences.
Talk about cancel culture!