The Assault on US Capitol

January 7, 2021

I often look up for words, synonyms, antonyms in Merriam-Webster.  Yesterday, I looked up for a word and the column titled “Trending Now” caught my attention because on top of the list was the word “sedition”. This is what followed:

“Why are people looking up sedition?

“Sedition once again rose through the ranks and became one of our top lookups, in the first week of 2021, after making numerous appearances in articles on political upheaval.”

Then came examples of sedition in a sentence. The first one read,

“This is sedition, plain and simple. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat.

“— Tom Nichols, The Atlantic, 4 Jan. 2021”

Today, I looked at the “Trending Now” column again. The word “sedition” had moved to the second place after “insurrection”.

In a few days, words “incite”, “rioter”, “mob” may top the list.

Merriam-Webster, Inc., is an American company that publishes reference books and is especially known for its dictionaries. People whose native language is not English, including those in the Middle East, certainly look up for words more often than English-speakers. It seems that the interest in words related to what has been unfolding in the US since the November 3 elections caught Merriam-Webster’s attention.

As the foregoing shows, the assault on the US Capitol was not a surprise even for non-Americans. As I watched the turmoil, words “Brownshirts”, “Blackshirts” and “Taliban” crossed my mind. I wondered about the difference, if any, between Mr. Trump and President Lukashenko of Belarus.

What is somewhat surprising, however, is that objections to electoral college votes were supported by a significant number of congressmen/congresswomen and some senators.

The House rejected an objection to Arizona’s Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden by a final vote of 303 to 121. The measure was dismissed in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 6. As for the Pennsylvania objection, lawmakers in the House voted 282-138 against it. The Senate shut down the same objection 92-7 and declined to debate before voting. Yes, these congressmen/congresswomen and senators did not fraternize with the mob but their attitude is troubling nonetheless, underlining democracy’s decline in general and US’s in particular.

Prominently among those senators was Ted Cruz who had called Mr. Trump a “pathological liar”. Cruz had also accused Mr. Trump of narcissism. Mr. Cruz’s 180-degree turn on Mr. Trump would not surprise Turks at all because we too have witnessed many incredible U-turns in our domestic politics.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, another Republican at the forefront of those defying the Biden victory, is mentioned among possible Republican contenders for the presidency in 2024, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, and former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Moreover, one cannot overlook the fact nearly 75 million Americans voted for Mr. Trump on November 3. “Trumpism” is now a word of the American political lexicon. In other words, American democracy’s problem goes beyond the mob. This is why once in office Mr. Biden would be a president facing far greater domestic and foreign policy challenges than many of his predecessors. Topping his agenda would be restoring America’s global status and healing its polarization, a disease worse than Covid-19.

Fighting populism is a problem major problem for Western democracies. So, they need to account for their mistakes, analyze populism’s root causes, invest in income equality, education, make a new beginning, and perhaps reinvent democracy.

The majority of Washington’s European allies have condemned the breaching of the US Capitol.

Russian and Chinese leaders have remained silent enjoying the moment.

“The events in Washington show that the US electoral process is archaic, does not meet modern standards and is prone to violations. We wish that the friendly American people will survive this dramatic moment in their own history with dignity,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was reported as saying.

“We hope that the American people can enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible,” China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was cited in state media. The Washington Post reported that Chinese propaganda outlets seized on Wednesday’s breaching of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob to castigate US politicians for their support of violent protesters in Hong Kong who broke into the city’s legislature in 2019.

On the tenth anniversary of the “Arab spring” the peoples of the Middle East must be shocked by the assault on the US Capitol. After all, US interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya were undertaken “to bring democracy to the region”. Yes, they too have occupied government buildings, destroyed government property but their goal was democracy, rule of law, better governance. Now they worry about elections being held at all. And, if that were the case, about results being overturned by the mob supportive of those in power.

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