Ruben Navarrette: Attack on Capitol holds up a mirror to America — and the image isn't pretty
Summary: No one owns their mess. Everyone is a victim. And those who claim to respect law and order are, when it suits their purpose, the first to break the law and disturb the order.
SAN DIEGO — So far, 2021 looks a lot like 2020.
Just four years ago, the act of transitioning from one administration to another was considered routine. Boring even.
President Donald Trump put a stop to that. For a guy who hates losers, the cry-baby-in-chief does a great impersonation of one. As sore losers go, Trump is the sorest of them all.
His campaign slogan should have been: "Make America a Great Big Mess."
But the world doesn't need another Trump-bashing column. You'll get your fill of those. And justifiably so.
In a stinging editorial on Thursday, the day after the desecration of the U.S. Capitol by Trump sympathizers intent on hijacking the process of Congress counting electoral votes, The Washington Post appropriately called for Trump to be removed from office for "this act of sedition."
Finally. For five years, the Washington establishment enabled Trump's attacks on women, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, media, Republicans, "shit-hole" countries, Democratic leaders, Black Lives Matter, the physically challenged, transgender individuals in the military, members of his own Cabinet and others.
But, for the Beltway crowd, vandalizing the U.S. Capitol crossed a line.
We shouldn't waste this moment talking about Trump, who we can only hope will soon be yesterday's news. With any luck, the thousands of protesters — read: domestic terrorists — who tried to cripple the democratic process instead crippled Trump's quixotic hopes of reclaiming the White House in 2024.
What needs talking about is something much more important than Trump: the American people, with all our inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies, not to mention the double standards we apply to mayhem, lawbreaking and civil unrest. Here's what happened this week:
The losing candidate in the 2020 presidential race — an individual who always put himself and his ego before the interests of the American people — riled up supporters over the idea that the election had been stolen and that they were victims of sinister forces intent on disenfranchising and silencing them. Then the instigator bundled all that anger and entitlement into a giant cannonball and aimed it at the Capitol.
Victimhood is intoxicating, and both parties overindulge. After the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton's list of people, places and things that caused her loss included everything minus the name "Hillary Clinton." Show me someone used to getting their way, and I'll show you someone who can't handle failure.
Add to that the fact that, judging from photos and video footage, most of the protesters were White — and to the degree that the notorious Proud Boys were involved, actual White supremacists — and you can see what fueled the entitlement. My stomach tightened as I watched White protesters wave the Confederate flag in the Capitol rotunda, or steal federal property as souvenirs, or insolently put their boots on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or boldly chase a Black Capitol Police officer through the building. I thought to myself: "Wow, White people really think this country belongs to them. And only them."
And why not? It's true that the riot produced four casualties; three people died of medical emergencies during the chaos, and 35-year-old Ashli Babbett of San Diego, an Air Force veteran who shared her right-wing views on social media, was shot and killed by Capitol police as she tried to climb through a window that had been smashed by rioters. Still, for the most part, law enforcement handled these lawbreakers with kid gloves, maybe because they were so vastly outnumbered or because some of them were sympathetic to the pro-Trump cause.
Either way, it seems, White privilege extends to bedlam. White rioters often get gentler treatment than those whose skin is Black or Brown.
The scene at the Capitol this week bore little resemblance to how left-wing protesters were treated by police last summer. Had these been Black Lives Matter protesters — instead of angry Whites in MAGA caps — you can bet there would have been more officers, more clubbing, more blood.
As for the inconsistencies, the Left and the Right both insist they're nothing like one another. But, from where I'm sitting, in the Center, they're simpaticos.
Neither camp takes responsibility for its actions. Last summer, when Black Lives Matter protests turned to riots, supporters accused right-wing infiltrators of creating havoc. This week, after the siege at the Capitol, Trump supporters went to Twitter and Fox News to blame left-wing agitators posing as MAGA loyalists.
No one owns their mess. Everyone is a victim. And those who claim to respect law and order are, when it suits their purpose, the first to break the law and disturb the order.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at email@example.com.
© 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group