If you had any doubt about that before, you shouldn’t any more
“This is a direct reaction to the past six months,” said a friend of mine about the attacks on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, an attack which President Trump invited and encouraged. I think my friend meant that it was an understandable if not entirely justified response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that erupted in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. I agree with him that the events of Wednesday were a reaction to those protests, but my assessment of the corellation is, I suspect, a very different one than his.
Although peaceful protest is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, there were times when the BLM protests did devolve into violence and destruction of property. In most instances however, that was not the premeditated goal and in fact, an independent assessment found that over 93% of the protests were peaceful.
“The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) analyzed more than 7,750 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in all 50 states and Washington D.C. that took place in the wake of George Floyd’s death between May 26 and August 22.”
“Their report states that more than 2,400 locations reported peaceful protests, while fewer than 220 reported ‘violent demonstrations.’ The authors define violent demonstrations as including ‘acts targeting other individuals, property, businesses, other rioting groups or armed actors.’ Their definition includes anything from ‘fighting back against police’ to vandalism, property destruction looting, road-blocking using barricades, burning tires or other materials. In cities where protests did turn violent — these demonstrations are ‘largely confined to specific blocks,’ the report says.”
USA Today reported that in Minneapolis in many of the instances where violence and destruction were premeditated, it was carried out by white anarchists who targeted banks, chain business, and other symbols of what they consider to be corrupt institutions. “Even a peaceful protest can turn violent if outside agitators decide to participate, hijacking the message.” To be sure, some violence did erupted spontaneously, and those who destroyed property or intentionally harmed others should be taken to task for that, but that wasn’t what the siege of the Capitol was after.
They weren’t asking for justice related to illegal activity commited at the BLM protests, they were demanding that the American dominance hierarchy be unequivocally reestablished.
The refusal to believe that Donald Trump had lost the election by some 7 million votes, despite numerous Republican governors, mayors, and voting officials declaring that it was so, was and is a desperate clinging to the heyday of the patriarchal dominance hierarchy’s resurgence under Trump. If Trump is ousted and those who belong at the bottom of the social hierarchy and their allies attain power, the civil rights gains that began in the wake of the protests will continue and to Trumpists, that feels destabilizing because it challenges the hierarchy itself.
The dominance hierarchy is in peril and that could not be allowed to happen without a fight or at least a really big tantrum. So, a cabal of Trumpists decided to storm the Capitol. They talked about it openly for months on the internet, but did they honestly believe that they could coerce the Congress into refusing to certify Biden as the next president? Vice President Pence had already said that he would oversee the certification of the Electoral College outcome for candidate Biden as the next President, against Trump’s wishes. But the plan to “occupy the Capitol” continued, with some calls on that day to “find that traitor, Pence.”
At a minimum, this group did believe that they could incite fear and make their position universally known. They could run through the halls of Congress like armed frat boys on Spring break and for a few hours at least, regain that sense of power and entitlement to the upper rungs of the social pyramid that they felt was being threatened. When members of the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist male-only organization that engages in political violence found themselves in front of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, they stopped to take a selfie and have been recorded as saying, “Hey, let’s call Trump.”
The dominance hierarchy is the pyramid-shaped social structure that has been a given in this country until very recently — one where white Christian heterosexual men hold the top positions of power and authority, and all others fall below them to varying degrees. It hearkens back to the pre-Civil Rights era, and the pre-women’s lib era when people “knew their place.” The problem is that for the past 50 years, those static places on the pyramid have been eroding, and people who used to quietly keep to the shadows are now asking for and beginning to get a seat at the table. A black female Vice President was certified on January 6th as well.
Some of the characteristics of the dominance hierarchy include:
- Ranking of the male half of humanity over the female half. Rigid gender stereotypes, with “masculine” traits and activities such as toughness and conquest ranked over “feminine” ones such as caregiving and nonviolence.
- High degree of fear and violence, where abuse by “superiors” in families, workplaces, and society is justified, and is assumed it will be taken stoically (rather than marched about in protest to demand better).
- Beliefs and stories that justify and idealize domination and violence, which are deemed inevitable, moral, and desirable.
These aspects are what Donald Trump most fully embodies, and Trumpist devotees are drawn to him like moths to a flame because of it. They believe in the idea of social Darwinism and encroaching equality feels to them like a loss of rights and a betrayal of the Darwinian pyramid. Somewhat ironically, according the the actual Charles Darwin, the one most likely to survive is the one who can most readily adapt to changing conditions, not the one who is the strongest and most powerful.
Not all Republicans or right-leaning people are Trumpists, and we are in fact seeing a real separation of the wheat from the chaff in the GOP in the wake of this attack on the Capitol. According to a YouGov poll, only 45% of registered GOP voters said they supported the actions of those who stormed the Capitol although 58% of Republicans believed that those who did so were largely peaceful.
Despite many Republican lawmakers and voters having decried the unlawful occupation of the Capitol, and the way that Trump and some of his associates, such as Rudy Guiliani, incited violence and mayhem, Trumpist diehards continued to support the President because they feel that the ends justify the means. Those who are trying to steal their way of life — a way of life which necessitates some people being stepped on and oppressed so that others can maintain their position in society — is something worth commiting sedition in order to stop being stolen.
“Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organisation, that tends toward rebellion against the established order.”
Attorney General William Barr, who until very recently was a close confident of Donald Trump, has called the 2020 election “The most secure in history.” None-the-less, Trumpists preferred to believe the lies that somehow the election had been stolen, despite zero evidence of this that hadn’t been obviously manufactured. Why? Because their dominance hierarchy poster-boy Donald Trump told them it was so, and in addition, they don’t want to have to give up their “rightful” place on the hierarchy to those people.
They’re afraid of that, because in a dominance hierarchy, somebody has to lose in order for somebody else to win. Having been in the winning class for so long, they don’t want to lose, and so a kind of mass delusion took place, that only increased every time a legal challenge to the election was found to be baseless. Many Republicans who saw their loyalty to their nation as more important than their loyalty to Trump refused to dignify his obviously illegal bid to stay in power despite having lost the election fair and square, and more and more of them began to truly distance themselves even as the diehards became more rabid and unhinged.
The siege of the Capitol was in response to the protests of the past 6 months and the change to the status quo that they engendered. It was a desperate attempt to hang on to a world that dominance hierarchy adherents feel is slipping away — the world that Donald Trump temporarily revived. And although it will not disappear under President Biden, there is a good chance that some measures of basic human dignity and equality can be reinstated.
© Copyright Elle Beau 2021
Elle Beau writes on Medium about sex, life, relationships, society, anthropology, spirituality, and love. If this story is appearing anywhere other than Medium.com, it appears without my consent and has been stolen.
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