January, 2021: The War Comes to the Capitol

by New Haven Sunday Vigil, Jan. 10, 2021

As terrifying as it was, the attempted coup d’etat that occurred in our Capitol on Jan. 6 (possibly a dress rehearsal for a more organized repeat performance) shouldn’t have surprised us. Led by the recently unelected President of the United States himself, members of the current administration and many of its Congressional allies have been fomenting this for months, if not the past four years. They (and those who follow them) will continue to organize for an alt-right, white supremacist-based government takeover unless and until they are removed from office and, hopefully, tried and convicted as traitors.

But how likely is such an outcome? What we have seen since 2016, writ large last Wednesday, are dramatic representations of evils that have been entangled in our nation’s history from its inception: racism, militarism, empire-building, and permanent conditions of economic injustice and war-making.

A Formidable History (AND Present) That Must Be Overcome

In the process of forming this nation, non-white people already living here were displaced, murdered, and, finally, driven into concentration camps in the name of “manifest destiny.” Another group of non-white people was kidnapped, enslaved, and stripped of all human rights to serve as unpaid laborers. After slavery ended, laws were enacted that kept them separate, disenfranchised, and impoverished. They also faced lynch mobs of their fellow citizens that reinforced this system.

Meanwhile, deliberately unequal distribution of resources — land, education, jobs, and income — gave an ever-shrinking number of the population wildly disproportionate access to power and money, a status quo they have maintained and increased over the centuries by pitting the rest of us against each other based on skin color and other characteristics. Simply put, racism and white supremacy have continued to serve the interests of empire-building and wealth consolidation so efficiently that, last Wednesday, an angry white mob was once again led to act on the belief that they have more in common with a corrupt billionaire than with their fellow citizens.

1814 (when British troops set fire to the Capitol building) was the last time such large-scale violence has been visited upon the halls of the U.S. Congress. But throughout the 20th century and during the first two decades of the 21st, our government has organized similar insurrections (some successful, some not) in nations throughout the world whose leaders, for whatever motives, refuse to dance to America’s tune. To quote U.S. Labor Against Racism and War: “With bipartisan Congressional backing, the U.S. has supported violent coup attempts in Bolivia, Venezuela, China, Ukraine, Libya, Nicaragua, Brazil, Syria, and other countries where U.S. oil companies and weapons contractors salivate for profits and regime change.” (https://www.laboragainstracismandwar.org/post/attack-on-congress-shows-we-need-a-strong-labor-movement?)

In the service of these same interests, our nation has been in a permanent state of war since the middle of the 20th century, with “Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force” from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with U.S. serial bombings and military occupations throughout the world, these undeclared but very real wars continue with no end in sight.

War fuels the U.S. economy and helps make the billionaire class ever wealthier and more powerful. In 2020, while the pandemic killed over 360,000 people in the United States alone, weapons contractors took in record profits. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 provided for a military budget of $740 billion and was unchallenged by either party. Meanwhile, we are dealing with massive unemployment, evictions, and an overwhelmed medical system threatening to withhold treatment for the most vulnerable among us.

All of this is what we mean by “endless war” — singular not plural — the war that came to the U.S. Capitol last week.

Reclaiming Our Power As Historical Actors

This war that we face on all fronts transcends partisan politics, and the work to resist it continues with more urgency than ever. We must reclaim our power. For all the injustices woven into its founding, our nation was also constructed around the principle of deeply engaged citizens, able and willing to think and act rationally for the common good. Recently, we have seen the examples of Black Lives Matter, the Climate Change Movement, and the successful effort to unseat two wealthy incumbent Senators in Georgia. We have witnessed labor, human rights and anti-war movements bring about change throughout our history. It is time for us to reclaim that legacy of positive action to finally build a just and equitable society.

RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR (Vigil every Sunday, 12-1 p.m., Broadway, Park and Elm streets, New Haven, CT) http://newhavensundayvigil.wordpress.com

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