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January 6 insurrectionists storm the barricades

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol in Washington D.C on January 6, 2021. (Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

The Blood Spilled on Jan. 6 as Rorschach Test

Our collective memories are as much under assault as our democracy. The GOP's rewriting of history could not be more dangerous when it comes to the nation's future.

It won’t take long — maybe a generation or two — but one day, Jan. 6, 2021, will be just another day of infamy just like all the rest. It will contain only a shadow of its former dread. It will be turned into an occasion for cosplay and winter barbecue by tens of thousands of Americans who will remember it fondly.

America’s historical memory, like its attention span, can be a fickle thing. Ask someone wearing a MAGA hat about 9/11, and some might surprise you by saying they “vividly recall” seeing thousands of Muslims standing on rooftops in Jersey cheering as the towers fell.

History as we traditionally understood it will be long dead because we allowed the most cynical obstructionists and opportunistic and morally corrupt goons to kill it at the behest of a self-dealing autocrat with an outsized talent for stirring up primordial hatreds.

“Do you remember Dec. 7, 1941?” That had something to do with Pearl Harbor, but I would have to Google it to be sure.

“Remember the Maine!” The what?

“Remember the Alamo!” Why, is this going to be on the test?

“The Trail of Tears?” “Fort Sumter?” “1619?” I’m feeling bad because you’re throwing some CRT stuff at me, aren’t you?

“Do you remember, your President Nixon? / Do you remember, the bills you have to pay / or even yesterday?” I’m afraid not, Mr. Bowie. Can you give us a hint?

Our collective memories — encoded on neurons on endlessly crisscrossing filigrees and synapses within that gooey matrix of ghosts and projections we call history — is as much under assault as our democracy.

One year after an insurrection staged in broad daylight, the coup leader, his collaborators and their minions continue to foment disorder from the sidelines. They are already laying down a trail of false memories for future generations to chew over.

There was a coup attempt at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? Who says? It was, at best, a bunch of tourists and patriots who got out of hand after being invited to tour the building by the president himself.

Anyone who stepped outside the velvet ropes of the rotunda were probably antifa or BLM, not God-fearing Americans devoted to restoring constitutional rule in this republic.

Blame the FBI, not President Trump, for any chaos that ensued. Nancy Pelosi’s office was trashed by stooges of Nancy Pelosi because she failed to ensure that enough security was on hand for a peaceful demonstration. That’s just karma, baby!

As for the men and women chanting “hang Mike Pence” in the halls of the People’s House that day, well, they weren’t really intent on hanging the vice president. That was just theater and joshing around to de-escalate the tension. Good ol’ boys love their theater, too.

Sure, they were disappointed that Veep Pence sided with the seditious Democrats to steal the election from Donald Trump, but there’s no proof at all they had violent intent, despite the hand-to-hand combat, the bear spray, the flagpole javelins, the fire extinguishers, the cudgels or the baseball bats aimed with such enviable precision.

It was just another day. Ask the vice president. If he really felt his life was threatened, why would he agree with the majority of the Republican caucus and most of its voters that what happened on Jan. 6 has been exaggerated by the liberal media and the evil Dems for political expediency?

If he is speaking his truth, why don’t you believe him? The evidence is clear to anyone who isn’t a satanic cannibal: Jan. 6 was just another day at the Capitol. There was no insurrection. That was a protest. The real insurrection was on Nov. 3, when the election was stolen!

This is what people at every level of the GOP are saying a mere year out from the events of Jan. 6. What will they be saying 40 years from now, when so many of the principal players, including Donald Trump, are dead?

Because our memories are fungible, it will be up to our tech overlords scouring thousands of hours of slightly faded digital footage extracted from long-defunct social media platforms, cable news archives and deep fake re-enactments to give us a coherent narrative of what happened that day.

History as we traditionally understood it will be long dead because we allowed the most cynical obstructionists and opportunistic and morally corrupt goons to kill it at the behest of a self-dealing autocrat with an outsized talent for stirring up primordial hatreds.

Forty years from now, as we’re dealing with climate change catastrophes that make the question of democratic self-rule somewhat moot, we won’t remember why a shrinking minority of Americans consider Jan. 6 a bad thing.

Didn’t the country agree during President Ron DeSantis’ three terms that Speaker of the House Marjorie Taylor Greene’s “Restoration of Hero Confederate Monuments Act” was a good thing for America, because it also led to federal oversight of rogue historians, duplicitous media personalities and Hollywood provocateurs?

In 40 years, will the people who are elementary-school age today flood auditoriums like their parents once did to object to masks and Toni Morrison’s novels? What will they object more to — the teaching of Critical Insurrection Theory or the pseudoscience about the power of vaccinations and frequent bathing as a fifth super-resistant strain of the Black Plague tears through the remnants of the Western world?

How many parents will stand at podiums imploring synthetic school board superintendents operated by AI to remove Critical Insurrection Theory from the curriculum? They will insist that their children feel bad because unflattering pictures of their grandparents overrunning the Capitol on Jan. 6 keep turning up in footage that has yet to be redacted or reanimated to show them in a more heroic light. No school, historian or third party has a right to teach children a version of history contrary to the propaganda they get at home.

One day, unless the electorate gets serious about ensuring the right to vote and access to the polls despite the machinations of a corrupt political party, history will be rewritten by true believers in the Big Lie.

They are working tirelessly to get elected and appointed to key positions in our electoral ecosystem so that it will be more responsive to the next authoritarian putsch when it comes. Dozens of candidates for elected office who participated in demonstrations at the Capitol last year will be on ballots. A few who ran for office last year won their races, and a few who were in office at the time of the insurrection have held onto their seats. 

The next insurrection won’t be a second storming of the Capitol. That’s passe. The next insurrection will be the elevation of a critical mass of autocratic enablers by democratic means, and that has already begun. 

This is the first time that people who are dedicated to ending democracy as we know it have been welcomed into an American political party with zero reservations. They aren’t shy about admitting to looking forward to rewriting history in their image. They hate democratic pluralism and can’t wait to overwrite everything critical of the insanity of Jan. 6, 2021, out of the American narrative.

Here’s the truth as they see it: Jan. 6 was just another day. Tourists visited the Capitol, and the clock struck 13 just as it always does. Anyone who teaches anything contrary to this and other Big Lies is UnAmerican.  


Tony Norman

Tony Norman

Tony Norman is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. He was once the Post-Gazette’s pop music/pop culture critic and appeared as an expert on cultural issues on local radio talk shows and television programs. In 1996, he began writing an award-winning general interest column, which, he says, rejuvenated his enthusiasm for the kind of journalism that makes a difference.

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