On Wednesday the world watched as an enraged mob, whipped into action by their leaders, including the outgoing President of the United States, stormed the U.S. Capitol in order to derail the process of endorsing the recent and overwhelming Presidential election results. As the attempted overthrow of legitimate government took place, elected representatives were removed to or found places of safety and thugs ransacked offices, stole Capitol ‘souvenirs’ and took selfies. Pipe bombs, molotov cocktails and guns were found and a policeman, a female insurrectionist and three others died.
There are many questions to be answered; will Trump be removed, by the 25th Amendment powers or by impeachment; why was there such a lack of preparedness among those whose job was to protect the Capitol ( the Capitol Serjeant at Arms has already resigned and the Chief of Capitol Police is going ). Many of the questions relate to events which lead up to the insurrection, which didn’t occur spontaneously ( a quick look at QAnon substantiates that ) and the attitudes and beliefs of the people involved. Mistaken and sometimes reprehensible beliefs which have been encouraged by lies in social and mainstream media and by Republicans. There were plenty of Damascene conversions and, as someone on Twitter pointed out, a ‘traffic jam on the Damascus road’ in both Houses, so keen were Republicans to condemn what happened.
It has not gone unnoticed that the protection given to public buildings during the Black Lives Matter march was hugely different to that given to legislators on Wednesday ( see photo, left, of the Lincoln Memorial steps on the earlier occasion ). As I write this there have been 82 arrests. There were 14,000 at BLM marches and there were no pipe bombs found at any of the latter. Reports that off-duty policemen were with the insurrectionists have yet to be proved correct, but there certainly appeared to be a reluctance, for whatever reason, among some police to prevent the mob from entering the building.
That the US police are not impartial is one conclusion. As if more convincing of this was needed, given the regularity with which unarmed black men and women are killed by police, without the killers suffering any penalty. Hence the calls to ‘defund the police’ ( though I recognise that, in certain respects, this relates to very specific types of police ). Impartial law enforcement is crucial to justice, which, together with the legal system which sustains it, is crucial to democracy. Without the rule of law and real equality provided under that law only the strong and powerful will thrive, reducing any voting system to a sham and paving the way to authoritarian tyranny. This is basic level Civics, but something which seems to need restating. These are also ideas which I explore in Oracle.
While the book is, I hope, a fast paced mystery tale, somewhat in the same mold as Plague and involving the same central character, pursuing the murder case in it is fraught with difficulty because the police, the law enforcers, have become politicised. So who can one trust? Even the police do not trust each other, fearful that their colleagues are members of a banned and criminal organisation, the former extreme right-wing political party Golden Dawn.
Oracle doesn’t offer any answers, I don’t know what those are, other than a thorough and committed programme for change. That is likely to take years but has been done in the past. Perhaps this is one of the things high on the list of problems to tackle which the new Biden-Harris administration is going to have to undertake in the US. I wish them luck.
N.B. This article has been amended. The photograph of heavily armed National Guardsmen above left was taken during the BLM protest, but the Guardsmen are standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, not the Capitol. I apologise for the error. The point however, remains good. There was a huge discrepancy between how BLM and MAGA were treated.