There are strong hints from the events that we’ve just witnessed, that those among us who are loose lipped about Unilateral Declaration of Independence, and rigged referendums should sit back and consider democracy for a bit, or if not, have a look at the ultimate might of the state.
For the Yes movement, the conclusion of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum signalled at least a deep pause to the vibrancy and optimism that peaceful, democratic change could be won. There was of course always darkness globally, and we were not unaware of or immune to international events, as the Arab Spring was quashed, and some European countries were increasingly flirting with the politics of the far right.
The launch of English Nationalism by Cameron on the steps of Downing St on 19th September 2014 increased a sense of alienation from the international community. This culminated in the spat of privilege between the Tories and Farage’s Ukip, and the announcement on February 20th 2016, that the EU referendum would take place in June that year. Somehow we found ourselves stranded on a dark path to an unknown destination.
The meme of the bizarrely mop headed duo, Johnson and Trump, was doing the rounds. What if one became PM and the other President? As someone who tends to fear the worst and hope for the best, while keeping an on eye on the bigger picture, I never did find it amusing. Leonard Cohen checked out shortly after the election of Trump, and his most shared song “Anthem,” with the lines “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” reflected something of the longing for passage out of the darkness engulfing so much of the planet.
The search for a replacement grown up, for sanity, was fruitless. Instead we found the likes of Steve Bannon and the Breibart News network, sweeping the western world with conspiracy theory, white supremacism, and terminology like Snowflake, Virtue Signalling and Social Justice Warrior. Messages, if we needed it, that it was not Cool to Care. “Alt Right” in itself projected an image of a sort of new hipsterism, where Political Correctness was no longer acceptable. The far right seeking respectability.
Freedom of speech was increasingly appropriated by those finding their new-found freedom to cry “Victim!” at measures to curb their hate speak, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between aspects of the far left and the far right. Cue the ongoing support of the far right Leave project by the likes of the Communist party of Britain and George Galloway.
At some point in the course of this gathering storm, maybe early 2016, I read a trashy novel that I wish I hadn’t. It stayed with me for a while and cast a long shadow. It was about the attempted and failed coup to take over government, by a white supremacist. At the time, it left me with a sort of vaguely ominous feeling of being haunted by Farage type figures.
Several years down that path, and the events in Washington DC of 6th January 2021 brought that novel and the feeling it invoked sharply to focus. This was a very depressing episode in a long running and ongoing saga of despair, insanity, conspiracy theory, deception and danger. We know that its beginnings are complex and many faceted, and that it’s nowhere near its conclusion in terms of outcome for humanity and civilisation. All the same, I know that I was not alone in staying up well into the early hours, election style, hoping for a happy ending.
In time we may remember it as The Nazi episode. The one where darkness found purchase and mobs of white supremacists mysteriously breached a deficient security arrangement, putting the lives of Senators, staff and reporters in danger, and threatening the democratic process happening within it. Many commentators reflect it as a threat to democracy itself.
For Americans across the political divide who are wedded to their Constitution, for better or worse, when it comes to guns, it was unconscionable. An unbearable embarrassment, as the eyes of the world looked on. Heart breaking from the angle of a great country that is a bastion of diversity, and so much more than anything we saw on Capitol Hill.
The conclusion of the night’s watching was compelling though, as the drama unfolded, the unrest was contained, and the democratic process to officially recognise Jo Biden as the next President of the United States was resumed. There were some blistering speeches, and some repentance, as some set themselves back on the straight and narrow, and pledged an unlikely unity, in spite of their loyalty to Trump . There were twists and turns along the way, such as Republican resignations and denunciations, and the reported unfollowing of Trump by Vice President Pence; a man often seen as another head of the serpent, should Trump’s actual bizarre head be (figurately) removed.
Clearly though, some cynicism should be suspended here, to acknowledge the sheer terror of those hearing the baying mob approaching, Jack Nicholson ‘Shining’ style. One reporter in the building said that he had been asked by an invading Nazi “where are the rest rooms, and where are the Senators?” Twitter feed also shows terrorist style manoeuvres and accoutrements including cable tie material, which suggests potential hostage taking.
Following a night of strong hyperbole by press and politicians alike about sedition, insurrection, and impeachment, at the time of writing, the BBC at least, has reverted to headlines of Trump’s pledge to a “Peaceful transition” for Biden’s inauguration. It’s still very much the morning after the night before.
There’s still the messy spectacle of obvious comparison between treatment of white Supremacists and previously, of BLM protesters on Capitol Hill, to be addressed. There’s some intrigue about the National Guard and security in general. There’s the speculation of whether indeed it was an attempted coup, or Trump’s deliberate showing of strength as puppet master, while knowing the limitations of what he could realistically achieve. The fate of the Republican party itself is in question, though my guess is that, like the Tories, they’ll keep bouncing back. Privilege gives you strength.
There are strong hints that those among us who are loose lipped about Unilateral Declaration of Independence, and rigged referendums should sit back and consider democracy for a bit, or if not, have a look at the ultimate might of the state. We must go considerably higher than Johnson and the Tories, with their own proven lack of respect for democracy.
Perhaps finally, it’s worth rewinding to the early hours of 1st January 2021 when we toasted the end of a dreadful year, and approached 2021 with a degree of optimism, not quite returned in kind yet. Let’s also remember that on the same day of Trump’s disgrace, a black man and a Jewish man were elected as Senators in the Southern state of Georgia, giving the Democrats some purchase in their agenda for social/health reform and climate change.
For those of us who have batted away suggestions by some on the far left that there is nothing to choose between Trump and Biden, we see the difference very clearly at this point. Here’s hoping that the Biden/Harris team will deliver. In the meantime, let’s try and reclaim that Happy New Year optimism.