American empire came home on January 6 and it wore a Viking hat and looked lost.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli (C), a QAnon supporter known for his painted face and horned hat, enter the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
On January 6, 2021, a small army of Trump supporters gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the imminent certification of the electoral ballots that would hand the presidency to Joe Biden.
It was a last-ditch, do-or-die attempt. Having just lost both Senate seats in the state of Georgia, the only political bulwark remaining between traditional America and the pending takeover of the republic by radical Marxists was Donald Trump. Should Trump fall, the country would lie open to the “fundamental transformation” of which Trump’s successor had boasted 12 years before. The people who went to Washington to “stop the steal” did not make the trip for their own amusement. What lay before them was the ruin of everything they hold dear.
At the crucial moment, when the opening and certifying of the electoral ballot envelopes was upon them, Trump appeared at a rally and ginned up a wave of shock troops who understood their mission and carried it out with alacrity. The Trump version of the Revolutionary Guard went blindly careening onto the Capitol lawn, broke through barriers, scaled walls, slipped past wink-winking security guards, and—mirabile dictu—swiftly gained access to the inner sanctum of American democracy. The deplorables had taken the center of political power. There they were, standing in the halls where their torment had been effected, where they had been slighted at every turn. The spoils of their revolt lay at their feet. They had seized the very institution that not even the Soviets or the Nazis were able to able to run their flag up to the top of. Total victory, in all of 20 minutes.
At that moment, Trump folded. He cut and ran. The general abandoned the field and everyone on it. The very outcome for which the ragtag militia had been dispatched—the legitimation, against all odds, of the second term of their leader—was obviated by the leader himself, by his cowardice and callous disregard for his people, at the precise instant that they seemed to have achieved what they came to do.
Army wins battle, leader cancels war. Doh.
It was even worse than that. The people spilling through the doorways of the Capitol apparently had no idea what to make of their windfall, their impossibly lucky break of having gotten into the building in the first place. One trickster ransacked Nancy Pelosi’s office, posed for a picture at one of her staffer’s desks, and made off with a single piece of stationery as a souvenir. All that way, and surely prison time in the offing—and the revolution was about a trinket and a photo-op.
Another revolutionary, a tattooed Viking in, quite literally, a fur-and-horns cap, stood in Pelosi’s speaker of the House spot in the heart of the rotunda and, instead of declaring some new law or crowning himself King of the Potomac and freeing political prisoners by fiat, tilted his head back and howled as though he had just torched a village that had refused to pay the Danegeld.
The rabble without a cause captured the castle—and then had no idea, not a single clue, what to do next.
And it was all to stop the election of a man who is obviously senile, a cipher of a politician who himself does not seem to grasp the significance of what is happening to him. Joe Biden will be president—someone ought to explain that to him. A cowardly showman yelled “Fire!” in a crowded theater and people got stampeded and shot to death, and the whole bloody farce was to stonewall a pitiful dotard who ought to be wrapped in a plaid blanket and having a cup of hot soup rather than pretending to be the next person who gets to say where the aircraft carriers go and who in the Middle East gets a drone strike for breakfast.
What a shame. What a sham. Two holograms dueling for a political center that has been evacuated of all meaning.
The Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the IRS—these and other “federal agencies” (what is “federal” about unchecked power?) control our lives. We live and are sent to die at their whim. The person sitting in the Oval Office is the hood ornament, not the driver. And Trump got people killed because he couldn’t tell the difference between playing the president on TV and being the president, or the further difference between being the president and being the real power behind the throne. Hint: it’s not Ivanka. Another hint: Peter Strzok has a job, but Trump and all of us who voted for him are blindfolded against the wall.
The rabble that broke into the Capitol on January 6 is all of us. Je suis Viking guy—there’s a little sign you can take to your next political rally. We rush and clamor for a title that is glaringly meaningless. President? Okay. How about we thumb wrestle to see who gets to be the head of a Girl Scout troop? That has more significance than the idiocy that we call our “sacred democracy.”
Biden or Trump, Harris or Pence, Pelosi or Feinstein or Barrett or Kavanaugh or Merrick Garland or Ajit Pai—who cares? What chumps we have become, we Americans. Government by the people—except that a long time ago someone stipulated that by “by the people,” what is meant “the people who get to record everyone’s phone calls.” Ditto for “of the people” and “for the people” and all the other democratic-y boilerplate.
Why, after 20 years of post-9/11 police state and katrillions of dollars spent on weapons and surveillance and censorship and belligerent propaganda, was the Capitol not defended? Well, one cynical answer is that the government is run by morons. Yes, there is much evidence to support that view. An even more cynical answer—the true answer, I think—is that it doesn’t really matter what happens to the Capitol. It’s like the bird that fakes a broken wing to distract you from where her eggs really are.
The Capitol is a front. Not important. Try breaking into the NSA building, by contrast. Never mind. Don’t do that. Don’t even think about it. You wouldn’t get within 10 miles of the place before being vaporized.
The horror and the hooliganism in Washington this week shouldn’t cause us to miss the real lesson of the really bad terrible awful day: we are all a rabble without a cause. The forever war came home dressed as an opera singer in drag—that’s our grand recompense for the empire and a fitting end to a republic that was stolen a long, long time ago.
Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.