I didn’t write anything this past week about the happening in D.C. There was a surfeit of writers on the topic, and I wanted to let my own thoughts marinate for a while in my brain juices before I committed them to the public domain.

Yes, it was a stain on our impression of ourselves as a shining light at the top of the hill. Yes, there are questions to be answered: why were the Capitol police so easily defeated? Why did the Army Secretary delay all day about sending in troops, and then only let them assemble on a street far from the Capitol and without any riot vehicles? If this had been a mainly Black insurrection, would there have been lots of gunfire, busted bones and mass arrests by militarized police as in Portland and Seattle?

But our democracy did survive. Congress resumed its session, counted Electoral College ballots and declared Joe Biden the winner by more than 7 million votes.

We’re not perfect. Never have been. I was reading a story about another American insurrection incident. That was the Battle of Canal Street in New Orleans, a 1874 attempt by 5,000 members of the White League — a white, anti-Reconstruction, paramilitary group trying to take over the Republican state government of Louisiana. They attacked and overpowered the police, then the capital, and were only repelled three days later by federal troops.  Seven police were killed. Four of the rioters, and one journalist. Not one of the insurgents was ever prosecuted.

The 1874 armed insurrection in New Orleans’ Canal Street district

The recent D.C. event should cause us to put on our thinking caps. How well have we governed ourselves? How just are we?

Other countries do see us as a violent people because of our gun culture of open-and-concealed carry and the daily shootings of several dozen people in Chicago. We have not much questioned constantly sending our military forces into other countries: Panama, Grenada, Libya, Haiti. We basically militarily occupied South Vietnam and called all the shots of that country’s militarized government.

We criticize China’s treatment of its Uighur minority but refuse to recognize institutional racism at home. We are buddies with the hand-me-down dictatorship in Saudia Arabia, but won’t work with Cuba because it has a communist government, which is no threat to our national security. We also deplore the crackdown on Hong Kong’s citizens while we bless Israel to suppress the Palestinians who were kicked out of their homeland.

We ignored Josef Stalin murdering his people by the burial pitful so long as he was our ally against Nazi Germany in WWII.

We have great inequality of access to necessities of life in this nation. We’re really in no position to criticize that in Venezuela or Brazil.

Maybe D.C., as painful as it was, will be some sort of wake-up call that The People’s Government in that Capitol Building needs to do a much better job of uplifting our own version of what Argentina’s Eva Peron called the “descamisados” — the shirtless ones, the poor, the disenfranchised; those who feel looked down upon by an increasingly elite American upper class with high education and fat bank accounts. A friend said to me last night: “We could pick members of Congress by a lottery rather than an election and we couldn’t be any worse off than we are.”

I am not about hating America. And I have no sympathy for that D.C. gang. That was dumb and disgraceful and made no friends in or outside the U.S.

But let’s not ignore the deep-down distrust, unhappiness  and antipathy that unleashed that thoughtless fury.

Hitler harnessed it, starting in 1933. Castro harnessed it in 1957. Kim is doing it now. So are the drug cartels in Mexico, who depend on popular dislike of corrupt police and incompetent political leaders. Trump did it, too, in 2020, drawing 74 million votes —  11 million more than in 2016.

I hope the new Administration and the coming 117th Congress recognize that there’s an unmistakeable signal that 2021 cannot be just another year of partisan bickering, campaign slush funds, meaningless speeches and exotic White House dinners while families from closed coal and steel and railroad and Rust Belt towns don’t go to a doctor or dentist because they can’t pay the bills.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

3 replies on “Special Sunday Report: Looking Back After Thinking It Over”

  1. Your finest report, Bob. One Canadian FB posted a cartoon of rioters at the WH. Caption: Due to travel restrictions this year, the United States had to organize the coup at home.” Michael Moore posted 7 Critical Truths, one being, “Trumps terrorist attack was only a dry run, planned, aided, and abetted by certain members of the police, the military, and the Republican Party.” Stay tuned!

  2. Bob, your general sentiment here is laudable. You are absolutely right about the demagogues who exploit distrust, fear, and frustration. And you are right on the money that 2021 can’t just be another year of vicious bickering and national self-destruction.

    But you lost me at that big chunk that begins with “We criticize China’s treatment of its Uighur minority but refuse to recognize institutional racism at home.” That is one whopping false equivalency! While there is certainly racism on many levels in the US, there are also constitutional and other legal protections that function far better than many shrill voices in politics, the media and elsewhere acknowledge–and that Uighurs in China certainly have no access to as they’re herded into government reeducation camps literally by the millions.

    And what do you mean by “we,” White man? Many of “us” in the US fully recognize this nation’s historic and continuing racism and injustice, and strive to eliminate it. Some even stretch things to the point of absurdity. For example, it’s now considered a national news story when a mentally unstable 22-old-old dingaling falsely accuses a teenager of stealing her cell phone — as long as the victim was Black, the perpetrator was not, and there’s entertaining video. No clear indication of racial motive necessary. Also, many liberal white folks of your generation, and quite a few others, seem to have a difficult time understanding that racism in the US is not a one-way street by any means. If you don’t understand that point, you really need to get outside your comfort bubble a little more.

    But back to foreign policy. Yes, it often seems outrageously hypocritical, selective, and immoral. But it’s also constantly evolving and based on what the nation’s leaders decide are its best interests, rightly or wrongly. No nation on earth bases its foreign policy decisions entirely on morality and fairness, and it would be foolish and dangerous to assume otherwise. Many of “us” don’t support positions our nation takes in our name, and work quite hard to change those positions and reject the leaders who adopt them. We’re free to do so. In fact, we’ve just done so. And that means an awful lot.

    As you say, “We’re not perfect. Never have been.” Few pretend otherwise. “We” can still stand for some of the best things this world has to offer, and our nation can remain a place to which oppressed people flock seeking freedom, rather than flee in fear.

    Let’s make this year better for everyone. Aloha

  3. until one side acknowledges the other sides grievances as real, heartfelt and of deep concern, our country will continue to be at the mercy of those with the loudest bullhorn. our media needs to revisit its role and responsibility and corporate social media needs to be regulated by government in compliance with law.

    Trump took advantage of the disinfrancised and people died. The process will take care of him. I belive people can disagree without being disagreeable.

    what you pointed out was what we know as shame! we are all responsible for the burden of that shame. And we can all use this shame to reach out, especially to those we disagree with, so that we can re-learn that debate is only effective if we are civil and repectful and tolerant of the equal views of others

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