The Lessons of Mob Rule

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaking in 2019 after the hearing of Trump impeachment witness Laura Cooper
Donald Trump stirred up a bunch of angry white people, asked them to storm the Capitol building, and disrupt a Constitutional proceeding. It was a sickening site to see as these Trump sycophants breached a secure area, yelling and creating chaos. No, I’m not describing the siege on January 6. I’m referring to the mob scene from October of 2019, when scores of Republican Congressmen pushed their way into a closed hearing, in which testimony was being taken in the first impeachment of their maniac president. On that day, unhinged Florida representative Matt Gaetz, who had just recently been reprimanded for intimidating a witness, led the charge to disrupt the deposition of Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official who was sharing her knowledge of Trump’s quid pro quo call to the Ukrainian president.

Gaetz and others had lied to the Trump base about the hearing, saying Republicans had been denied access to the secured room. Not true. In fact, Ms. Cooper was being questioned by GOP and Democratic lawmakers alike, and any Republican Congressman not involved in the questioning could have observed the proceedings. But Gaetz and company weren’t going to let facts get in the way of a good story, so they characterized the hearing as a “Soviet-style process”, in which they were denied access.

Trump and his enablers lied about one thing or another for the past four years, always for the purpose of inciting their base, while also fleecing that base of hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.

In that regard, the white-collar mob scene of 2019 was much like the white-trash mob scene of 2021, except absent the violence. The 2019 breech should have informed us of how easily Trump can snap his fingers and command others to do his bidding. It should have also warned us that a violent siege was not only possible, but probable. In an ironic twist of fate, some of those same congressmen, who once stormed a House hearing room, got a taste of their own medicine when they had to flee from a mob who stormed the Capitol. For the Gaetz clan (including Cruz and Hawley), it was a case of cowards running from the cowards they had helped to incite.

In the aftermath of January 6, much has been written about how our republic has suffered here at home, and how our image abroad has been forever damaged. But over the past few days my thoughts have turned to the children of America, and what they must have thought about the images of our Capitol under siege. Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, told the Washington Post, “We need to assume our kids are internalizing their emotions after learning of the events at the Capitol…it’s affecting them, and making them think about ‘What does this mean about the world we live in?’

Of course, each parent must decide how best to deal with their child’s internalizing, but most experts agree that it’s always better to talk frankly about a disturbing event. Given that the President incited the recent Capitol riot, author Kate Messner suggests discussing stories from history and reminding kids “what a good leader looks like”.

Speaking with CNN.com, Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience Program at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said, “There are many teachable moments from this [riot]…and how much you tell the child depends on their age and maturity level.”

Meanwhile, after interviewing a number of educators, the AP’s Michael Melia and Carolyn Thompson wrote that most high school teachers focused their lessons on the importance of the Capitol riot, but also “pushed back against the creeping sense that violence is the inevitable end to political division”.

Perhaps, though, Ms. Messner offered the most succinct civics lesson of the week, telling the Post’s Amy Joyce, “We’re raising kids, but we’re also raising citizens and voters and leaders. They need to be well prepared and informed, and capable of critical thinking.”

In other words, we need to teach our children to know the difference between fact and fiction, and right from wrong. Sadly, those simple lessons were never taught to the Capitol insurgents, nor to many of our elected officials.
 
 

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