Racism, cause of insurrection, began long ago - Bob Stannard

There he stood basking in the glow of where he was and how he got there. Laying on his right shoulder was a confederate flag, unfurled in our nation’s Capitol. For the insurrectionists committed to stopping the sanctioning of our free and fair elections seeing the confederate fly in our Capitol was heartwarming. For the rest of America, not so much.

By the time these words land on your eyes Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States. No one knows where his predecessor will go and most Americans don’t care as long as he’s gone.

Jan. 6, 2021 may very well end up being a teachable moment for America. We got to see the final act of a movement that’s been in the works for decades. There were many factions on display inside our esteemed, yet under-protected, Capitol building. There were the attention-starved crazies donning horns wrapped in dead animal tails. There were the violent, outcasts of a civil society who were committed to destroying the building and those in it. People who declare that God is on their side and that the destruction of our democracy is somehow God’s will. There were angry people who have believed the well over 20,000 lies their president told over the past four years and there were racists; plenty of racists. When the candidate you support and admire tells you a Big Lie over and over and over again that the election was rigged, stolen, illegal and that the duly elected victor is illegitimate you begin to believe him. When that man issued a call to arms to come to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, not to peacefully protest, but to “stop the steal” and to “not show weakness” then the results were predictable. His words designed to incite the riot that he had encouraged for months resulted in him being impeached for the second time, not only in one term, but in one year. Fifty percent of all U.S. impeachments now belong to one man. What led us to this moment? It wasn’t Donald Trump although one might argue that he was instrumental in organizing and inciting the failed insurrection. In spite of the insurrectionist’s best efforts, the election was sanctioned the same night thus declaring Biden the winner and Trump the loser. As far back as the 1940s the so-called Christian Right has been raising its radical head in American politics hoping to impose its will on all Americans. This movement has been very successful. They have had the ear of major political figures like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and others who would come to realize that the only way they could win their elections would be to engage and empower religious zealots.

America allows anyone to worship as they so choose. What America is not fond of is you imposing your beliefs onto others, in some cases against their will. The friction that has existed between the Christian Right and those who are not has been grinding away for a long time. Twelve years ago next month marks the anniversary of the Tea Party; a movement organized by former Congressman, Dick Armey and funded by David and Charles Koch. For decades the Kochs have used their vast fortunes to impose their radical beliefs on America. The Tea Party was their convenient vehicle.

The rise of the Tea Party coincided with the rise of white supremacy. Like a boil, racism has been with this country for hundreds of years. Just when some of us thought we’ve made great strides we discovered that we’re still treading water. There were a few non-whites at the insurrection, however, the crowd of thousands was overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly gullible and radicalized. Amy Kremer, founder of Women for America First, rose to prominence in the Tea Party movement. Her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, 30 started a “Stop the Steal” Facebook page on Nov. 4 helped to fund the insurrection. Beliefs, good and bad, are handed down from generation to generation. It’s hard to break a cycle of lies and requires enormous effort and dedication.

The first step in breaking any cycle is to tell the truth. People would rather believe lies and conspiracy theories, which makes it all the more difficult to change public opinion. Today, some foreign countries like Russia are making calculated decisions to create and spread fake news in order to keep America divided. Jan. 6 proved that it’s working beautifully.

The insurrection was as much about racism as it was about the Big Lie of a stolen election. Many Americans believe that had the riot consisted of predominantly Black Americans that many more people would have died.

America is never going to fix the problems that confront all us until all of us confront the No. 1 underlying problem: racism. Many people in this country have been radicalized by hate and fear of those who are either different or don’t hold the same religious beliefs. Isn’t it time we had a national discussion on race relations? If not now, when? Do we really want to see the confederate flag replacing the Stars and Stripes in our Capitol?

The author, a former member of the Vermont House of Representatives, writes a column for the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal. 

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  • David Flemming
    published this page in Commentary 2021-02-02 16:48:44 -0500