Happy Anniversary: Like most sensible ideas I ever had, I stole it. In this case, it was from a neighbor up the street, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in England. He was commenting on the so-called “insurrectionists” who swarmed the U.S. Capitol a year ago this Thursday like a pack of quick-twitch-muscle-fiber zombies with the scent of human brain still fresh in their nostrils.
He didn’t care much for the term “insurrection,” he said. Why not just call it “treason?”
Why not indeed?
Like pretty much any naturalized U.S. citizen, he knew far more about the Constitution than I and 98.7 percent of our native-born types did. He’d been forced to study it inside and out. It’s one of the many things required of all naturalized citizens on their path to citizenship. Call him sentimental, but the right to vote and the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next is, well, sacrosanct. It — and not the physical structure of the Capitol building — is what makes America “America.” And it was precisely this that was under siege 365 days ago this week.
And still is.
Anyone found guilty of joining the January 6 mob in an effort to block the final Congressional ratification of last November’s election should be stripped of their citizenship. For traitors, he argued, those privileges should be forfeit. And as non-citizens, they could be picked up and deported, left perhaps on the other side of Donald Trump’s famous “wall.”
I liked the idea. It would be much cheaper than locking some goon up for five years for tasing a cop and then bashing him senseless with a fire extinguisher. More importantly, it would be proportional. The punishment would actually fit the crime.
Of the 700 individuals so far charged with their role in the attempted coup, 70 have been found guilty or sentenced. Most have gotten slaps on the wrist. They were first-time offenders. They had been lathered up, they argued, by a president who, they have since come to understand, lied to them. Not one has yet been denaturalized.
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If it was fit punishment for America’s favorite anarchist Emma Goldman — who famously said if she couldn’t dance, she wanted no part of any revolution — it should be good enough for people whose idea of “peaceful protest” includes showing up with bear repellent, tear gas, bulletproof vests, helmets, walkie-talkies, portable ladders, and rappelling ropes. Goldman was a Russian-born naturalized American citizen who spoke out against the draft during World War I and loudly urged young men to resist. For what would appear a rudimentary exercise of free speech, Goldman was charged and convicted of the crime of sedition and then deported. So were about 250 others at the time whose chief offense was being foreign-born and believing in socialism.
About 40 years later, the federal government would pursue treason charges against Ezra Pound, a poet of considerable note who also happened to be a screaming fascist. Pound managed to dodge this bullet by being found clinically insane and was socked away in the soundproof basements of St. Elizabeths, then a notorious asylum in Washington, D.C., for 13 years.
In the ensuing days, we will be hearing much about the Big Lie. For the record, Trump filed no less than 60 legal challenges contesting last November’s election results and lost every single one. No evidence. Many of the judges who ruled against him were Trump appointees. Many of the secretaries of state were good God-fearing Republicans. Still, we are told, it was all rigged. Not even Santa Barbara arch-Republican Mike Stoker — who served as a high-ranking EPA administrator during the Trump administration after having launched the now infamous “Lock her up” chant during the Republicans’ presidential convention in 2016 — could drink this Kool-Aid. And Stoker had been hired by the Trump campaign to be on the lookout for election-night voting irregularities at polling sites in Pennsylvania.
The scary news is that roughly 21 million Americans believe that the election that put Joe Biden in the White House was somehow tainted and that the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the throne is justified. That’s 8 percent of the population. It’s not just crazy shamans sprouting horns out of their helmets.
Robert Pape, the University of Chicago researcher who runs a think tank on security and threats, did the deepest dive yet into the backgrounds of all 730 people charged in the Capitol attack. He found that only 13 percent were members of White supremacist groups.
Pape discovered that instead, more than half those arrested were business owners, CEOs from white-collar occupations — doctors, lawyers, architects. Two-thirds were older than 34, mostly clustered in their forties and fifties. They were more educated — 25 percent had college degrees — and employed. Most came from counties that voted for Biden. Very few, it turns out, came from counties that voted for Trump.
Perhaps most importantly, according to Pape, is that most came from communities that have seen a significant demographic shift in which the White people saw their numbers decline relative to people who are not White. In right-wing circles, this is known as “The Great Replacement.”
Twenty-one million people is a lot. If Pape is right, maybe it is an insurrection after all. Even so, if they could deport Emma Goldman for speaking out against the draft, they can certainly deposit these individuals on the dark side of Trump’s Wall. It would be proportional.