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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

Unjustified and Unjustifiable

On Wednesday, January 6, rioters or insurrectionists or terrorists or protesters or patriots (depending on your viewpoint) made their way into the Capitol and disrupted the counting of electoral votes to certify the election of Joe Biden. It was shocking or terrifying or exciting or triumphant (again depending on your viewpoint). It’s that viewpoint I want to talk about.

There are few things in this world that I feel strongly enough about that I would leave my house and join a crowd (I hate crowds) to shout and cheer and walk while shouting and cheering. I did it for the 2017 Women’s March; I went to smaller rallies in support of BLM in the summer of 2020. There are even fewer things that would make me angry enough to attack cops, break windows, set fires, or steal stuff, and I hate seeing that happen for any cause…but then, I’m a wealthy middle aged white male, so.


If I genuinely believed…if there was proof that absolutely convinced me…if it was patently obvious that my vote, and the votes of people who thought the way I did, were being thrown out or discounted en masse, or that the other side had engaged in a massive campaign to falsify election results? That would make me mad enough to march. I would get my ass out of my chair and go wherever I thought it would do some good to show up. I would shout angrily, I would march to the Capitol, I would hold signs. I would say that such injustice and oppression deserved the full opposition of the populace. (And then, at the end of the day, I would go home, because I’m peaceful at heart and afraid of being in trouble.)

But I’m sure if I was mad enough to protest, there would be others like me who were even angrier and prepared to do more than just shout. I’m sure there would be people ready to break into government buildings and private businesses and tear things apart. I’m sure, if our votes were taken away (say, by a crowd of government-backed thugs who overturned the election) that there would be people on my side who would try to burn things down, and I would probably not be too sad that they had done so. I might even defend them, or look for mitigating circumstances, or point out that there were outside agitators involved. I did that for the BLM protests. Hell, I’d be proud of the fact that we had upset the system so much, even if it wasn’t my actions that did it.

So in that respect, I can understand the motives of the mob who stormed the Capitol and the protesters and apologists who are justifying it. If the positions were reversed, I’d be saying much the same things, and the other side would be condemning everything. The breakdown comes from that condition:

“If I genuinely believed…if there was proof…if it was patently obvious…”

I genuinely believe, and there is so much proof, that it is patently obvious that Black people, brown people, indigenous people are systemically and systematically marginalized, oppressed, and harmed in this country. That women are treated worse than men. That corporate welfare masquerading as capitalism is failing the people of this country. And that the diminishment of anyone by the system also diminishes me, so it is in my interests to help bring about change. I recognize that there are those who do not accept the evidence as proof, and that to them it is not obvious at all, and therefore extreme actions are unjustified and unjustifiable.

And that’s where I am about the Capitol uprising.

I reject the “evidence” of the protesters that the election was stolen, because there isn’t any. There is accusation, and rhetoric, and falsehoods, but no evidence.

Instead I accept the findings of the courts that heard their complaints, evaluated their “evidence,” and dismissed the cases. I accept the findings of the elections officials in the contested states, who recounted and evaluated the votes in accordance with the rules, and certified their votes as genuine. I accept the decision of the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the lawsuits put to them because there was no standing or merit to them. In the face of these findings I can only conclude that the protests are unjustified. They could almost have been justifiable, but they are not.

What makes them unjustifiable is source and the object of the protests. The source is not some groundswell from the people, long oppressed by an unfair system. Rather, the source is none other than the President himself, who for four years (and more) stoked and encouraged fears and prejudices and hatred with outright lies, eventually calling for them to revolt. And the object is to oppress others, to take away the rights and voices of Americans, to set at nothing the same Constitution that protects their very right to protest. It is unjustifiable in light of the motives of the protests: not to effect change, but to overthrow the will of the American people in favor of an autocratic, white-supremacist system and leader, a system that does not seek to protect anyone’s rights, but rather to keep others from securing them.

Unjustified, and unjustifiable.

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