In this episode of Marksism, the editors discuss the storming of the US Capitol and their articles on the topic.
Tooley: Hello this is Mark Tooley, editor of Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy, with another episode of Marksism with fellow editors and fellow Mark(c)s, Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton, reviewing this week’s coverage by Providence. So, primarily, if not exclusively, looking at the events of Wednesday, January 6 here in Washington, DC when a mob assaulted the Capitol in an unprecedented action in all of American history. The fires, having been stoked at the presidential rally denying the results of the recent presidential election, and matches were dropped, the fires were lit, the mob broke through evidently much too light security at the Capitol. Members of Congress were forced to go into hiding. Apparently at least five people are now dead. The Electoral College vote was disrupted, but later occurred as expected. And yet we have just experienced, as the Republic, something that is very disturbing and unprecedented, and we are entering new waters. And while I fully expect that the United States of America will continue and thrive in the future, we do have to address what we have just experienced. And so, Marc LiVecche, Mark Melton, starting with the elder Marc, what are your thoughts?
LiVecche: I guess I’m the older Marc, right? Yeah, loads of thoughts. It’s been a respondent time for memes, if nothing else. I saw one meme from a friend, a man in a bar holding up a drink, “Five days in, here’s to 2022.” Another one, a woman jumps out of a burning building, bounces on a fireman holding a tarp, she jumps out of a burning building, bounces off the carpet, lands on another burning building. It’s an old Far Side cartoon, one building is March 2020, the other building is March 2021. That captures I think the spirit of the times. My article addresses the fact, the obvious fact, that what happened at the Capitol was horrendous, and an abomination, and ought never to have happened, but it does push against certain trends to not compare what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday to the various activities that happen over the summer. The riots. The BLM riots, and burning neighborhoods, and things like that. I do draw comparisons. Not strictly speaking in comparison, both of them are unique in different ways, but I do say that a context was set back earlier on, and that Americans have been increasingly at each other’s throats and that has been a continual building up of a kind. And as you say, a match was struck. But I insist that multiple people are responsible for the striking of that match, it wasn’t simply a bunch of white supremacists trashing a particular building on Wednesday, there’s a context to this. And the context needs to be reckoned with. And it’s going to take a load of time. And I agree with you, America will come back from this. We’ve come back from a number of things. But we’re going to have to get our house in order. I think both of these things that we’ve seen, all the burning of neighborhoods, the burning of private businesses, the rushing of the Capitol, the common trend is, as we’ve written in our pages before, people have lost sight of the ultimate. We have now put too much stock in penultimate things. Using a little bit of Bonhoeffer’s language, government is not the ultimate, but we are now looking at these things to be our saviors. And when you do that, then you are going to fight to the death for these things because they become ultimate values. And that’s a tragedy. And it leads to the sort of nonsense we’ve been seeing all through the year and the heartbreaking nonsense we saw on Wednesday.
Tooley: And Marc, America has had social unrest for its entire history. And the riots in 1968 were far worse than anything we experienced in 2020. But it’s unprecedented, first of all, for mob action to take place as a direct result of a presidential speech. And it’s unprecedented for mob action to direct itself to Congress and the electoral process. Apparently some in the mob were searching for Vice President Pence, as he had been targeted by the president for his failure to not ignore the Constitution as the Electoral College vote was ratified. So, I think this is very, very different from past social unrest. We’ve opened up a new chapter that’s more disturbing than past episodes of social unrest, don’t you think?
LiVecche: Yeah, I agree. I agree in principle with that. The nuances that I would make to that is that they are differences in, I’m going to get my biological terms here wrong probably, but they’re differences in genus and species. I think what happened at the Capitol building was fueled by the past social unrest that has occurred. I think those people storming the Capitol, as delusion as they may be, they have reason to believe that this election was stolen. Not good reasons. Mot reasons that have been proven in court, etc. But on the other side, the concept of “orange man bad” is so full of venom and vitriol that those people have reason to believe that on the other side they would steal the election. The people on the other side have every reason to believe that those people rushing the Capitol mean to deny democracy. So, everybody has given everybody else zero reason to believe the best of the other side. And these are the kinds of things you get. And hands down, Trump has his role here. And I’d be perfectly happy at this point to see the 25th Amendment happen. I’d love to see him bounce before the end of his term. So, it is different. It is unprecedented in those ways, but I think it wouldn’t have happened if everything that has come up to this point hadn’t already happened. It’s probably unprecedented for a reason. I think that the kinds of tensions we’ve had stoked by political leaders, on both sides. You’ve got the incoming president insisting with omniscient perfect knowledge that this would have been a different situation if they were BLM people, not taking into account that one of the reasons this was a different situation is during the BLM protests, the National Guard was criticized for using too much force. So, of course there’s no National Guardsmen now. On and on and on, the context is fueled into Wednesday.
Tooley: We see our pacifist friend Shane Claiborne tweeting about the Capitol. He didn’t seem to appreciate the irony that the Capitol needed more armed men to protect the security of the Congress. I don’t know how he would have prevented the mob overriding of the Congress otherwise.
LiVecche: In speaking of our friend Shane Claiborne, the Red Letter Christians need to be called out in particular, because they posted a meme of the Capitol and it said, “This is America.” This is America. And I am a little bit tired of the all of “this isn’t America,” because this has become America, but it’s not the deep character. But their meme went on to say, in light of what was happening at the Capitol, we all need to think about and pray for and protect our black brothers and sisters, our friends who are people of color, indigenous Americans. The sort of exacerbation of the racial issues are extraordinary, and that’s the kind of thing that I think is profoundly irresponsible and profoundly unhelpful.
Tooley: Well, I think that our current climate is very difficult to criticize without somehow labeling it racist. That’s the primary moral category that we have. So, racism is one of 10,000 other human sins, and what drove the mob at the Capitol was probably propelled by 20 other sins above and beyond racism, I would imagine. But Mark Melton, what are your thoughts?
Melton: Right, so I’ve just earlier today posted an article that is obviously the same topic, and in this, you mentioned earlier about Mike Pence and how there’s reports of people targeting him, that frankly angers me a lot. I think it should anger people. This cannot happen again. To me, this is different than the riots. Now the riots and the looting needed to be prosecuted and prevented and deterred. I’ve written about the need for the National Guard in those situations and the value of the National Guard in those situations. I’m very disappointed that the National Guard wasn’t used more in this situation. Apparently they were responsible for kind of being at different metro hubs and other places but weren’t told to go in, and it had to be Mike Pence, too long after the breach of the Capitol, Mike Pence had to order them in. Which is kind of a little breaking the chain of command, but my understanding is there’s some gray area of the chain of command with the National Guard. But Trump’s at the top of that. He’s the Commander in Chief, in the same way that the state governors are the commander in chief of their National Guards. And so, that angers me. I talked about that. I’m talking about like one of the great failings of the French Revolution was to allow the Parisian mob to control the government, especially after the March on Versailles, where they forced the king into Paris. And they are able to dictate the course of the revolution. And then you have the leaders of the revolution manipulate the mob and exploit. And so, we’re not there yet. I think it’s good that the Congress reconvened, continued its business, it will continue its business. It’s prosecuting people. We’re arresting people. But I think we need a full investigation of why this happened, why are we failing, why was the National Guard not there, why was there only a small barrier. And so, yeah. That’s the first half of my little short piece. And the second part, I talked about the Christian symbols that are used at the riots and what I call the Christian nationalism. And I know Christian nationalism is kind of a nebulous term. It means different things to different people. I think we can look at this and probably say this is Christian nationalism. And it’s different from what I would call a healthy love of country. And so, we need to be, I think we need to understand why. What were these people thinking when they were doing this? Because I think the Church needs to be able to respond to that and needs to speak into that and show people right ordering of love of nation and country and your neighbor. I mentioned Tobias Cremer. I did an interview with him earlier in the year, and he did research between European populism and American populism and their using of religion. Where in Europe, they vary a lot of times, most of the time, they don’t actually believe the faith when they’re carrying crosses in Dresden. They’re using the faith or the faith symbols to kind of say, “We’re Christian because we have a church in our city, not because we have a mosque.” And even though they may be atheist or agnostic or whatever. In that interview, he talked about in America it’s very different. The populists tend to actually believe in the tenants, know the tenants, but that he found in his research a growing “cultural evangelicals,” where they claim the identity without believing the faith. And this I think is a part of a rise of a post-Christian right. I think my hypothesis is that some of the people who are carrying those symbols, I think there’s a mix of those who truly believe in the faith and those who might be more like the European populists. But I think that in order for the church to properly respond to it, they need to understand what is going on, how are people using these symbols, and respond accordingly with a message that is more akin to like what Walter Russell Mead wrote about in is Yuletide blog of how Jesus loved his nation, he loved the Jewish people, he loved Jerusalem, but he was also able to reach out to people beyond that. And so, I think the church needs to be able to allow a healthy love of country but have it rightly ordered.
Tooley: Well, of course the notorious personality getting the most attention among the Capitol Hill invaders was this self-identified shaman pagan Viking, with his horns and furs, perhaps representing this new far-right Christian pagan alliance that maybe resembles the AfD far right in Germany. Pseudo-pagan, but also willing to exploit the idea of Christian salvation, even though they reject Christianity themselves. And the night before the mob moved, I walked among their rally and heard some of the rants from say Alex Jones, talking about the globalists and the Rothschilds and so forth. So, the events that followed did not surprise me. But I was struck by how much language was about Jesus and God thrown in with these deranged demands and expectations. So, it’s an unusual hodgepodge of thought and action. And I’m not sure if Christian nationalism quite captures what it is, but I can’t yet offer an alternative term. So, lots of activity. Concluding thoughts? Oh, also, I wanted to note that the troubles with the chain of command and Mike Pence having to intervene evidently, perhaps this is the first national crisis in American history where the commander in chief had to be evaded or worked around in a national crisis because he was in fact the stoker of the crisis. But final thoughts for you, Marc?
LiVecche: No, all that’s good stuff. I mean, even the Nazis gave Jesus Christ a pass, right. So yeah, these are powerful symbols that people are going to appropriate, and I agree, more needs to be understood. Yeah. We’ll get through this if we want to get through this. Americans, what it is attributed to Churchill, but it was probably Yogi Berra, who knows, but we always do the right thing in the end, after trying everything else. So, I think we’ve pretty much tried everything else. So, hopefully we figure things out. And not looking forward to the next four years, but there’s a lot of work for a lot of good people on both sides of the aisle and political spectrum to get busy doing. So, I hope that Providence plays our part in helping to get that done.
Tooley: What I suggested perhaps has been a massive failure in Christian political witness in recent years, and this will be an opportunity to rebuild back up from the rubble. And of course, Providence will be leading the way. So, maybe we can address that in next week’s conversation. Thank you, gentlemen, for this episode of Marksism. Bye-bye.