Like many Americans over the last week, I have been rendered speechless by what we witnessed in our nation's Capitol: the gallows and chants calling to hang Vice President Mike Pence who refused to illegally overturn the election, the nooses, Viking-like horned helmets, Confederate flags, Auschwitz T-shirts with skull and crossbones and 6MWE (6 Million Weren't Enough) signs referring to the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. It's not surprising that people wonder if America, not just Trump, lost its mind.
We watched rioters climb walls, smash windows and squeeze a law enforcement officer in a door. They broke into congressional chambers where elected officials hid under chairs. Photos of the man who put his feet up on Nancy Pelosi's desk and stole belongings off her desk, went viral.
Rep. James Clyburn said that he was barricaded in an unmarked office that was virtually impossible to find. Few people knew about those offices and to whom they were assigned. Yet, the insurrectionists came banging on his door. What? Is there truth to assertions that the rioters had inside help? Will I ever be able to think straight again?
I should be used to this. I chose to work in Tulsa shortly after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Fueled by extremists wanting to bring down the government, the truck bomb destroyed one-third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which had to be demolished, damaged another 324 buildings and killed 168 people, including children. The main perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh, wanted revenge for the government's attack on the white supremacist Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Our executive committee of the Oklahoma Council Against Hate had the responsibility of increasing security. The FBI trained Black, Native American, Jewish and interfaith groups to protect ourselves against armed groups such as the Christian Identity Church and loners like the Skinheads.
We know today's armed groups are more powerful, with ample resources for responding to Donald Trump's "fight like hell" rhetoric. Many organizations, especially houses of worship, have intelligently amplified safety protocols. So why was D.C. security such a mess? Capitol law enforcement was incredibly organized for Black Lives Matter protests. But even though the FBI warned about the Jan. 6 "war," reinforcements were rejected. Photos of the mob bludgeoning an officer with an American flag pretty much sums up the results.
Refusal to recognize reality plagues us. Take Nashville's Christmas bombing. Law enforcement was warned that the perpetrator was building bombs. But there was little investigation.
"Terrorism" is a scary term, whether from white supremacists or Black Lives Matter. But "insurrection," "siege" and "coup" take terrorism to a whole new level, fueled by conspiracies and egged on by opportunists posing as patriots.
When I wrote "When Hate Groups March Down Main Street" with co-author, Marc Brenman, we warned about conspiracists and their violent goals. That was two years ago, and I'm asked, "How did you know?"
How could I not? Proud Boys and QAnon are avid internet recruiters. Now they're mainstream news features. Yet many still choose to ignore, minimize and deny the danger. Fortunately, agencies and organizations now see that the denial era is over. They're defunding and disconnecting. Finally.
We must all bring our brains online like that if we're to defuse this insurrection.
Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.