It’s wasn’t at all surprising that yesterday exploded, that the ceremonial electoral college vote tallying was upended by violent insurrection, by an attempted coup. Mustn’t we all have known we were going directly to domestic terror? Every non-violent attempt at invalidating the 2020 election had failed. Caligula has been signaling his legions of thugs. Of course vote count day would be thrown off course by violence. And of course we should all have known that.
Still … I felt some surprise. I mean, what was up with that bare-chested guy in the pj bottoms and weird-ass horned headdress? Seriously, what was up with that guy? You’re coming to town for armed resistance and you’re dolled up like the love child of a Wagnerian Valkyrie and Max from Where the Wild Things Are? I mean, sure, you would be expecting a wild rumpus, but that get-up was … extra.
And what about the guy with the fist full of zip tie handcuffs? What’s that guy’s story? Who was he thinking he would be taking hostage? Why was he thinking about taking hostages?
Yes, some surprises, but mostly just head-shaking anger. The police opening the barricades and basically ushering the mob into the Capitol, cops yukking it up and taking selfies with the invading horde. The noose hung outside, complete with make-shift gallows. The wanton destruction, carried out by imbeciles talking about “their house.” And, best of all, no arrests, everyone just gently guided out of the building and off the grounds and allowed to walk away. Just like that. So casual. An occupying force, and the cops just let them stroll off.
It must be so interesting to be white.
Clearly America is finally great again. I’m waiting for Susan Collins to express her disappointment. Or to assure us that Caligula has learned an important lesson.
I wrote this at three o’clock this morning, while the House was voting on the challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes. I was watching Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon talk over each other. I was waiting up to see the full slate of votes counted and read into the record. I was tired, and staying up meant that work today would be a bad joke, but it felt important to stay up and watch it happen.
I’m interested in consequences. For the mob and for the Republicans and for Caligula himself.
While I’m not surprised, I am thoroughly fascinated by the comfortable entitlement of the terrorists. They didn’t think what they were doing was beyond the pale. (Sidebar: what the fuck does “beyond the pale” even mean? Where did it come from? Why did I write it when I’ve never said it in my life? I’m guessing I owe that to 3am brain.) One CNN reporter noted how shocked the invaders were when they were met with even mild resistance. Shocked. Because of course they should be able to storm the seat of government, destroy shit, rampage like drunken frat bros … and suffer no ill effects. Of course.
So I’m looking for some comeuppance for these assholes. Many of them are clearly identifiable, should be too hard for the FBI to find them. The FBI, right? Because they attacked a federal building, because they traveled across state lines to create chaos. That makes them the FBI’s responsibility, right? I want to see a string of news videos of these people led out of their homes and jobs and businesses in shackles. I want to see their stunned, angry, teary faces as they’re led away to pay the piper. (Seriously where are these words coming from? I think I really do have to blame 3am brain … that and the fact that I was forced to watch Louie Gohmert’s lame af objection to Wisconsin’s electoral college votes — did anyone need that nonsense?)
And then I want the Sedition Caucus to get their turn. All the senators and representatives who backed Caligula’s play. Censured and expelled. Every last fucking one of them. They are as responsible for feeding and goading the violent mob as Caligula is for goading and then unleashing that mob.
And finally, of course, there is Caligula. I want to see a fast-tracked impeachment. Because it’s more than warranted. And because a second impeachment has the added bonus of making it impossible for him to run for president again. I want that. I want it desperately. I think I deserve it. I think we all do.
At about 3:35am, the votes were officially counted and Biden was officially-officially set to be sworn in as our 46th president. Done and done.
Today I spent a chunk of time reading the weird, on-the-fly interviews with random terrorists. Reading the words of these violent criminals makes me angry, makes me sad, and makes me acutely aware of my Blackness, by which I mean acutely aware of the fact that White Supremacy has always been this country’s middle name.
When Caligula was inaugurated in 2017, I watched because I felt like I had to. I knew it would be awful, but I wanted to hear him actually say all the terrible things he was bound to say.
I bristled when he thanked Mr. My Forever President and his wife, Mrs. My Forever First Lady … and then went on and on describing how they had taken from the American people to enrich themselves and driven the country into the ground.
And then he described the country in stunningly bleak terms. He described our state of being as “this American carnage,” actually used the word “carnage” in his inauguration address.
It struck me because it showed just how much Caligula didn’t understand the job he’d just sworn to do. Yes, every president-elect who steps up to assume the mantle of state from an administration led by the opposing party wants to show the contrasts, wants to be clear about the ways their new administration will be a dramatic improvement over the outgoing crew.
But in those cases, they look forward and talk about the promise they’re going to flood over the land. They talk about the ways they’re going to join hands with the people, and together walk into a new world of possibility and prosperity. They don’t describe the country people are living in as carnage. They just don’t.
Caligula doesn’t know how to make a comparison other than saying option one is a shithole and option two is excellent like no one’s ever seen before. He has no sense of highlighting something good about option one and then showing how he will build high, higher, highest from those seeds of greatness. No. It’s only ever going to be shithole or glory. There’s no grey. And so we got “American carnage.”
Taking from the American people to enrich himself. Driving the country into the ground. Leaving (American) carnage in his wake. So, in 2017, Caligula was telling us what our future with him was going to yield. There were other eyebrow-raising callouts in the speech, but “American carnage” stood out, likely because it felt like foreshadowing, like a description of the world he would create for as many of us as he could. And by “us” I mean the majority of the citizenry, anyone who wasn’t wealthy and white. Yes, it would be worse for BIPOC, but it was clear he had no interest in or love for poor and middle-class white people, either.
We made it through the firestorm of his presidency in a severely diminished and debilitated state … only to have him try to orchestrate some additional carnage — as if all the lives lost to Covid weren’t a damning enough legacy — inviting bands of thugs to the city, ginning them up, and pointing them at Congress. Four insurrectionists and one law enforcement officer died. And as much as I am angered by the fact of how different the violence would have been if the invaders had been Black folks, I have to be glad the number is so low. I have no love for the people who tried to dismantle what’s left of US democracy, but I wouldn’t have wanted to see them bleeding and dying all over the Capitol, either, and I wouldn’t have wanted that more dramatic level of violence happening while electeds and journalists and maintenance workers and staffers were all sheltering in place throughout the building.
My title is the first bit of a quote from Suetonius. The full line: “So much for the Emperor; the rest of this history must deal with the monster.” Suetonius was talking about Caligula, and so … Caligula’s reign only has a couple of weeks left. I’m holding out hope (a hope that feels more like wishful thinking, but still) that he’ll be removed from office in the next few days. I’m not surprised that we’ve wound up here. But whether he leaves office or is removed, we still have the monster to deal with. The mob we watched yesterday was small. There’s plenty more where they came from. Caligula might be exiting stage left, but they will all still be our neighbors and coworkers. This is who we are as a country. It’s for-sure who Caligula is as a person and who he’s been as a leader. Can we do better? I choose to believe we can. Will we? Guess we’ll all have to stay tuned and see.
In 2017, I took up Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge to write an essay a week. I didn’t complete 52 essays by year’s end, but I did write like crazy, more in 2017 than in 2015 and 2016 combined! I’ve kept working on personal essays, kept at my #GriotGrind. If you’d care to join, it’s never too late! Find the group on FB: #52Essays Next Wave.