On Jan. 6, I was driving in Hartford when I passed a long unbroken line of Trump supporters in cars, trucks, and SUVs. They’d gathered at the state Capitol to protest, and now they were strutting like Orangemen through Catholic Ardoyne in Belfast, defiantly parading their power in a neighborhood not their own. I stopped to make a left turn, and a pickup truck with Trump flags waving from the back and a plow attached to the front grudgingly stopped to let me in. Someone had painted the words “Snowflake Remover” on the plow in red letters.
Just the usual garbage, I thought, and tried not to think about it. I’d become numb to these smug declarations of hate. But then came the news from Washington that a mob, incited by the president of the United States himself, had actually stormed the Capitol. Suddenly, all of those sneering signs and angry chants, all of the hateful background radiation of the Trump years, sharpened into a single obvious reality: they’d told us what they were, and they’d meant it.
I think we’re going to find out in the coming weeks and years that we were just a hair’s breadth from a much worse disaster. We are left with so many questions. Why was the temple of democracy, supposedly the most secure building in Washington, so easy to breach? Why weren’t the Capitol Police prepared?
How many of the police on one side of the barricades looked out over the angry crowd and saw a co-worker glaring back at them from the other?
But here’s the easiest question: Where did these rebels, these terrorists, these insurrectionists come from? How did they fall into such a deep trap of lies, conspiracy theories, and hate that they thought storming the U.S. Capitol was the right thing, in fact, the only decent thing they could do?
Oh, we like asking those questions, as if we didn’t already know the answers. It’s more comfortable to pretend that we don’t know these people, but the truth is that we’ve met them, we’ve worked with them, and we’ve sat down to dinner with them. We know how it happens because we’ve seen it happen again and again. Melissa Etheridge put it best:
“We all gasp this can’t happen here, we’re all much too civilized, where can these monsters hide?
But they are knocking on our front doors, they’re rocking in our cradles, they’re preaching at our churches and eating at our tables …”
She was singing about the killing of Matthew Shepard, but you and I both know that she was also singing about the sudden violence of bigotry and hatred, wherever and whenever it appears. We always act surprised, but in our heart of hearts we expect it.
We expect it not just because we know the people who end up waving flags and shouting slogans, but because this is an old fight. We’ve been fighting it ever since the first Englishmen stumbled ashore, a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. It’s the fight for equality, freedom, and justice against slavery, racism, and hate.
White supremacy has always existed, but so has opposition to it among people of all races. That’s the story of this country. Because while there were slave owners, killers, and bigots in colonial Connecticut and elsewhere, there were also abolitionists, enslaved black people petitioning the legislature for their own freedom, and people who respected the natives of this land and wanted to coexist peacefully with them. The fight against white supremacy has always been met with fierce pushback and a lot of it has been violent.
What happened on Jan. 6 was the start of a new phase in this very old fight. My worry now is that the next years will see more terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists, because this audacious and terrible attack on the Capitol has made them bold. We may see more of them very soon, even before Inauguration Day.
So stay alert and be ready. Expect these people to come back, and expect them to be what they say they are. If you see a truck with “Snowflake Remover” painted on the plow, assume that you are the snowflake they want to remove.
Most of all, don’t forget how you feel now. Be angry. Don’t let what happened Jan. 6 become normal. Don’t ever be numb to this again.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.