The son of a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge. A masonry worker from Des Moines, Iowa. A one-time Cleveland educator who said a day after the siege that she was “switching paths” to expose the “global evil of human trafficking and pedophilia.” A guy wearing a knit cap bearing the logo of the Chicago Fire Department, known on Twitter only as #extinguisherman for the footage showing him wielding an extinguisher near the steps where Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was beaten to death. These are the new anti-heroes of American democracy’s violent convulsions.
There are hundreds more pro-Trump supporters implicated in the political violence at the Capitol building last week. Authorities have reportedly charged at least 70 people and opened investigative files on 170 others. Many of the leads have come from crowdsourced clues in a deluge of social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and, before it was taken down, Parler, the social media network popular with the far right. Given the dire warnings from the FBI about forthcoming planned armed marches in Washington and in state capitals across the country, we may soon be drowning in details of the virtual lives of thousands of more radicalized Americans by Inauguration Day next week, and probably beyond.
The question every American citizen now faces is: Are you prepared to see the country you grew up in, pledged allegiance to and call home, descend into a slow-motion civil war? Almost 160 years have passed since Abraham Lincoln invoked the “better angels of our nature” during his first inauguration, and America still seems to be struggling to even find a set of clip-on wings. As I wrote this column this week, one politician after another was trooping up to the podium in the House of Representatives to debate whether President Donald Trump was fit for office, before the House impeached the reality TV star turned wannabe autocrat for the second time.