By John and Nisha Whitehead
This is what we have been reduced to: violent mobs. A nation on the brink of martial law. A populace under house arrest. A techno-corporate state wielding its power to immobilize huge swaths of the country. And a Constitution in tatters. We are imploding on multiple fronts, all at once. This is what happens when ego, greed, and power are allowed to take precedence over liberty, equality, and justice.
Just to be clear, however: This is not a revolution. This is a ticking time bomb. There is no excuse for the violence that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Yet no matter which way you look at it, the fallout from this so-called coup could make this worrisome state of affairs even worse.
First, you’ve got the ex-president, who has been accused of inciting a riot and was threatened with impeachment and a scandal that could permanently mar his legacy. At a minimum, Donald Trump’s actions and words—unstatesmanlike and reckless, by any standards—over the course of his presidency helped cause a simmering pot to boil over.
Second, there were the so-called “patriots” who took to the streets because the jailer of their choice didn’t get chosen to knock heads for another four years. Those “Stop the Steal” protesters may have deluded themselves (or been deluded) into believing they were standing for freedom when they stormed the Capitol. However, there are limits to what can be done in the so-called name of liberty, and this level of violence—no matter who wields it or what brand of politics or zealotry motivate them—crossed the line.
Third, you’ve got the tech giants, who meted out their own version of social justice by way of digital tyranny and corporate censorship. Yet there can be no freedom of speech if social media giants can muzzle whomever they want, whenever they want, on whatever pretext they want in the absence of any real due process, review or appeal. At a minimum, we need more robust protections in place to protect digital expression and a formalized process for challenging digital censorship.
Fourth, you’ve got the police, who normally exceed the constitutional limits restraining them from use of force, surveillance, and other excesses. Only this time, despite intelligence indicating that some of the rioters were planning for mayhem, police were outnumbered and ill prepared to deal with the incursion. Investigations underway suggest that some police may even have underestimated the threat from the rioters. All that was missing on Jan. 6 was a declaration of martial law.
Which brings us to the fifth point, martial law. Given that the nation has been dancing around the fringes of martial law with each national crisis, it won’t take much more to push the country over the edge to a declaration and military lockdown. The rumblings of armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., have only served to heighten tensions, double down on the government’s military response, and light a match to a powder keg state of affairs.
So where do we go from here?
That all of these events came to a head around Martin Luther King Jr. Day is telling. More than 50 years after King was assassinated, America has become a ticking time bomb of racial unrest and injustice, police militarization, surveillance, government corruption, and ineptitude, the blowback from a battlefield mindset and endless wars abroad and a growing economic inequality between the haves and have nots.
Making matters worse, modern America has compounded the evils of racism, materialism, and militarism with ignorance, intolerance, and fear. Callousness, cruelty, meanness, immorality, ignorance, hatred, intolerance, and injustice have become hallmarks of our modern age, magnified by an echo chamber of nasty tweets and government-sanctioned brutality.
This casual cruelty is made possible by a growing polarization within the populace that emphasizes what divides us—race, religion, economic status, sexuality, ancestry, politics etc.—rather than what unites us, the fact that we are all human.
This is what writer Anna Quindlen refers to as “the politics of exclusion, what might be thought of as the cult of otherness. . . . It divides the country as surely as the Mason-Dixon line once did. And it makes for mean-spirited and punitive politics and social policy.”
This is more than meanness, however. This is the psychopathic mindset adopted by the architects of the Deep State, and it applies equally whether you’re talking about Democrats or Republicans. As an academic study into pathocracy concluded, “[T]yranny does not flourish because perpetuators are helpless and ignorant of their actions. It flourishes because they actively identify with those who promote vicious acts as virtuous.”
“We the people” have paved the way for this tyranny to prevail.
None of us who remain silent and impassive in the face of evil, extreme materialism, meanness, intolerance, cruelty, injustice, and ignorance get a free pass.
Those among us who follow figureheads without question, who turn a blind eye to injustice and turn their backs on need, who march in lockstep with tyrants and bigots, who allow politics to trump principle, who give in to meanness and greed, and who fail to be outraged by the many wrongs being perpetrated in our midst, it is these individuals who must shoulder the blame when the darkness wins.
Freedom demands responsibility. Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or, at the very least, Americans.
King dared to dream of a world in which all Americans “would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” He didn’t live to see that dream become a reality. It’s still not a reality. We haven’t dared to dream that dream in such a long time. But imagine. . . . Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to stand up—united—for freedom.
Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to speak out—with one voice—against injustice.
Imagine what this country would be like if Americans put aside their differences and dared to push back peacefully—with the full force of our collective numbers—against the evils of government despotism.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. Several of his books are available from the AFP Bookstore. He can be contacted at [email protected]