Flipping My Lid: “It’s a Revolution!” (Well, it was *something*…)


An attack on goodness. (Image from

We’re three weeks out now and it seems so calm. Capitol Hill has now seen another Presidential inauguration, quiet and with a brooding military aspect to it, but also a reaffirmation that maybe the adults are back in charge of the Excited States of America¹. Major media are celebrating the Biden/Harris Reset, at times with a gushing “America is back! This is who we really are!” relief that is mildly embarrassing. Canucks like me are used to American excess, like what my football-loving big sister always eye-rolled as “another Pride-Of-America halftime show”. They still believe in comic books, redemptive violence and superheroes. The noble sheriff is back in town. Batman Returns! But listen, don’t get me wrong here: I’m also relieved, as many are, that the American government seems to be on more solid footing, but these are not days of wine and roses.

¹ Tip o’ my ballcap to the great Allan Fotheringham, another one we lost in 2020.

Three Wednesdays ago, as we were treated to video of a tear-gassed woman giving her name and city, and the explanation “We’re storming the Capitol! It’s a revolution!”, and much more jaw-dropping footage, I flipped my lid. I stomped about. I muttered darkly. (I couldn’t write at all.) I was outraged. Indignant. My bride was bemused. She was thinking, It’s not my country. It’s sad to watch it suffer, of course. But it quickens the process – people are going to be shaken up and realize how much they’ve ignored the cracks in the walls. Racism. White privilege. Bipolar resentment. System failure. She’s a pragmatic person. But she wanted to understand, in the days that followed, why I was so combustible, and simultaneously so deeply disheartened, by a mob – stoned on deception and wired on the skewed perception of having been robbed – storming the Capitol building in a mighty country next to my own. I tried to explain my bubbling anger to her. I mean, I know I was fried that day, having run too far for my fitness level. And I *am* an old fart. Maybe Seasonal Affective Disorder is an Actual Thing. (“SAD AT.”) Covid-crankiness? I can’t dismiss that, either. But this was much more.

I came up with three “reasons” to explain how January 6 had knocked me on my arse. (Rationality played only a minor role.)

Actual Reason the First: I love white men. My father, brother, and most of my best buddies and mentors have been white men. I feel a brotherhood, narrow as it might seem, with white men, and in the way that family arguments can grow bitterly excessive, incidents like the Capitol storming turn me inside out. I friggin’ h–e white men. (How dare they stoop so low?) When they kill women they can’t manage, or abandon them; when they take faux-heroic stands against unsuspecting targets of their twisted resentments (a synagogue here, a Black church there); when they “revenge” themselves against innocents who happen to wander into their crosshairs (Virginia Tech, Las Vegas) or target women at a Montreal engineering school, or children at Sandy Hook elementary school – well, I’ve been known to flail about and blister the Interwebs with angry words then, too.

I perform amateur psychology, asking what is it about my own weaknesses that ignites contempt for the grossest failures of my complexional brothers? Fortunate as I am, I shrivel at signs of my own self-pity, and feel reflexive revulsion when pale men whine about life’s unfairness. Boo hoo! Women are coming into fields that used to be mine! Immigrants are getting better educated than I am! It’s not FAIR!! It’s not easy when the rules change, certainly, but it’s deeply undignified to moan about a societal game that has been stacked to their/our advantage FOREVER, and which has finally begun to show signs of being slightly less biased in favour of men. Maybe my own failures to love, lapses in courage or resilience or even adequate planning, and all those refusals to learn – all these make me painfully aware of the weakness of way too many majority-group men. WHATEVER. I detest the gullibility, the ignorance, the clownish bravado, the moral cowardice — did you watch how many “brave patriots” jumped in to pummel that poor cop when he was down and dying? — and the blustering timidity of the Capitol rioters. I am disgusted by their pitiable need for a blustering, bogus “strongman” who lies to them as well as they lie to themselves. I cringe at the loud-mouth, petty grievances of white men in general. It’s unseemly. They seem to have no grit or genuine toughness at all. When things don’t go their way they fold like cheap newsprint.

Reasons for Unreasonable Rage, Number Two: I’m a huge fan of the American Dream. I have a fair amount of that reflexive Canadian smugness about the obvious foibles of our overwhelming neighbour, but I also admire and LOVE the best of the United States. It has achieved mighty things. In no special order: moon landings, the Marshall Plan, the Iowa Writers Workshop, Ben and Jerry’s, the New York Public Library reading room, baseball, the polio vaccine, Harvard. The United States has produced genius after genius. Aside from the Divine Avatars – Jesus Christ, Buddha, Baha’u’llah, and Their Otherworldly Kind – the majority of my heroes, adolescent and contemporary, have been Americans. Writers (and talk-show revolutionaries) James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut and Ursula LeGuin. Teacher, coach and hoops wizard John Wooden. The Reverend Martin King. Educator John Dewey. Muhammad Ali. Among the wonderfully admirable living: writers Marilynne Robinson and Bill McKibben; scholars Harry Edwards, Katharine Hayhoe, and John Hatcher; activist/coaches like Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr; brainy jocks like Bill Russell, LeBron James, Maya Moore and Jaylen Brown. The list changes and grows.

American excellence in sport, literature, science, medicine, statesmanship, charity, public service, commentary, poetry, music and beyond are hugely inspiring to me, as are their inconsistent forays into being that “city on a hill”, as Christ challenged His followers to shine. I do love, despite natural Little Brotherly envy, that country. So I detest all the more the grossness of its failures, and the shocking disparity between its ideals and the reality lived by its underclasses, to say nothing of its often-tawdry international adventures. I am amazed by the huge gulf between the brilliance of its best-educated and the proud clamour of its cranks. It’s not just Americans; I am routinely scorched and infuriated by bigotry in the name of religion, or prostitution of the arts, or trashy materialism disguised as sports. But that January 6 flare-up of perverted, blowhard American patriotism, that reeking evidence of the worst of American hubris, that seemingly-inevitable outcome of a win-at-all-costs mentality that corrupts American sports and business and now government, too – well, it makes me sick.

A Third Reason for Ranting: I belong to the Baha’i community. We are called to peace, forbearance, love, moderation. (And yes, also to justice.) So I should be more patient, less thunderous in my outrage. But we’re over 150 years into the Dispensation of Baha’u’llah – maybe you haven’t heard – and the continued flailing of foolish opposition to the global Remedy is just so irritating. (Pettiness comes in, too: every backhand rejection of the Answer feels like a rejection of me. I know, it’s a narcissism I share with many of the “warriors” of January 6. Damn it!)

But never mind that. Leave the particular Baha’i perspective out of this. My fellow believers are mainly wiser and more balanced than me, but please consider this. Anyone with any genuine education, plus some capacity to stand back and perceive where humanity is headed – all nations – will realize that three beneficent movements, at least, are underway, a trio of obvious global transitions. Growing equality of the sexes, the emancipation of women, is a tidal wave that cannot be turned back. Unjust treatment of half the human race is a limitation on human progress, one with evidently bad outcomes for women and men. Second, the essential sameness and undeniable dignity of all human beings, regardless of ethnicity or culture, are being recognized. Colonial and racist notions are being dismantled. And finally, the ideal of universal education is a global crusade, growing in acceptance of its fundamental importance and in progress towards its accomplishment. These three movements, perhaps chief among many other visible advances, are obvious to every unbiased observer. No thinking person can credibly deny them. But they do face resistance. Most, if not every example of the tragedies that most discourage us — and which periodically inflame me — are horrific cases of backlash against or obstacles thrown in the path of one or all of these movements.

The T—p phenomenon in general, and the recent attack on American democracy in sickening particular, is just a spasm, not that it’s not destructive. It’s a herky-jerky and irrational reaction, an overheated and desperate emotional rejection of the ever-more obvious progress along the paths of these three ideals. This reflexive resistance is doomed, futile. The only victory possible is a Pyrrhic one, which makes it no less painful and poisonous for all that. A fire is no less destructive because we set it ourselves. Its misogyny, found perhaps most astonishingly among women who have been conditioned to despise a certain kind of female power, is cartoonishly clear in the actions of the former President. Dismayingly, white supremacy’s American bastions have been energized and valorized by latter-day antagonism to the self-evident truth that all humans are created equal. They cry and complain, incredibly, about an electoral game being rigged; meanwhile, these “American patriots” are less polished versions of a long line of white politicos who have rigged the voting game. Apart from the ongoing bigotry and injustice, it’s shameful to keep complaining when the playing field gets even a little more level. And, my lord, the fervent embrace by so many Americans of ignorance, the rampant and toxic distrust of scientists and scholars! They wish to hurl, contemptuously, the ideals of universality in education, of the pursuit of excellence in acquiring knowledge and (dare we say it?) wisdom, into the ditch. They deny, with corrosive petulance, any truth that might compromise their comfort. They’ll admit no evidence that conflicts with the retention of their worldview, and their hold on existing entitlements – even if the entitlements are imaginary.

It’s not just Americans. The contagion of aggressive ignorance is widespread. But on Capitol Hill, these stormtroopers, battling what I take to be the better angels of the American Experiment, are shouting, Don’t let so-called FACTS (and research, and progressive policies…) get in the way of the Real True Story! You know the one: when men were men!; when whites were in charge and those people knew their place; when ignorance really was bliss, and pointy-headed brainers could just be stuffed in a locker, and there’s the end of it. You know. The worst of high school, played out on an embarrassingly big stage.

And that’s why I was so mad. This is what I tried to explain to my lady before I had the courage or the clarity to sit down and think.

And would you believe it if I told you that I am mainly optimistic, if impatient? I lost my equilibrium, back then when some of the best of America was being tarnished, because I was temporarily blind to the larger currents of goodness that the rioters were trying to dam up.

And that’s no way to be.

Comments (2)

  1. AJ

    Brilliant! Great insights, and while I fully agree with this all, I hadn’t really put it all into perspective or connected my deeper feelings/knowing with my rage about all of the stupidity and evil of the 6th….and the last four years before that….
    So happy to see something positive coming out of our southern neighbours again. AJ

  2. Maury Miloff

    I wish we were all more like you! Thanks for the above…

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