Ever since the Capitol building was seized by a large group seeking to overturn the certification of the election of Joe Biden, I have seen a number of articles, mostly sent by my friend, calling the event everything from an attempted coup to an insurrection to a call for revolution. Many of the articles ridiculed the participants, criticized Trump and his involvement, among other things.
Even today, separated by a few days in the events, I am getting the impression from both sides of the event that facts are hard to come by. It appears to be opinion stacked on opinion.
To say that I was thrilled with the events would be an overstatement. Angry? Disappointed? I would describe my emotions to be indifferent. While I think the action was miscalculated on the part of the participants (I’ve even described it to my friend as “dumb”), it’s been tricky to find an accurate picture of what exactly happened.
Was it a coup? No, coups are deliberate attempts to seize control of the government. This event doesn’t seem to fit that, despite news article after news article describing it as such. Was it an insurrection? Maybe. A protest? More likely. A group of citizens angry over the results of an election who decided (whether coerced or otherwise) that storming the Capitol Building was the best course of action?
What one calls it will likely depend on what story is unfolding in their imagination. It’s like a lens that distorts reality into a narrative that fits what we want to see. If one is on the left, Trump was a fascist who is hell-bent on turning this into a Nazi state. If on the right, he’s the embattled hero trying to overturn this countries race towards becoming the next USSR. If in the middle, these events could mean any number of things.
The fact is here, that no matter what, both stories are true and both stories are false. There are individuals who are working to bring both realities to fruition. Whether it’s the founders of the Black Lives Matters organization (who are self-proclaimed Marxists – and note: I am making a clear distinction here between BLM the organization vs BLM the movement – do not confuse the two), or the white supremacists/neo-nazis who… well, enough said. Depending on which side one leaned, it became a risk that they would be lumped into those far flung categories.
Of a phrase I’ve oft repeated through Trump’s Presidency, the greatest thing about his being in office is that it has exposed people to who they truly are. Whether this was an intended or unintended consequence, I couldn’t say. He said of course that he was going to “drain the swamp”, but I would argue that he only made it deeper in many ways. I would really lean towards this being an unintended effect.
I’ve had (and heard) conversations with a few people on both sides about this and many people agree. The problem is that it’s not themselves they see, but those others whom which they already had a opinion-prescription lens of which to view them through. They don’t see, for example, that their calls for free speech has become an excuse to be racist and cruel. Or that the person calling Trump on his lies lying profusely themselves. It’s the Libertarian demanding that the government get off their back but that everyone else should live the way they do (an il-libertarian thought) or the socialist who says everyone is equal but failing to see how their philosophies create inequalities. People have dug deeper into their own swamps, convinced that everyone else is proved to be a charlatan.
But what if we took the time to slow down our rush to opinion? What if we tried to take off those lenses that we see the world through and bring a mirror to reflect to us ourselves rather than looking to what we want to see in others?
Here’s an introspective piece for you to show one of the things I’ve learned by doing this to myself: I am far more left leaning than I claim while being enthusiastically quick to criticize the left side of the political spectrum. I claim to be libertarian (less government) and believe that everyone should be free, but operate really comfortably in a totalitarian (more government) state and complain when certain segments express their freedoms. See the contradictions here? There’s A LOT more there too in how I see the world. Another example: I was raised a conservative religious Republican in a military family. Yet I am agnostic, and I lean as a social liberal.
A great component in my thinking too has been that aforementioned friend who also acts as a challenge to my thinking, whether or not he agrees with me. He and I enjoy that we challenge each other at almost every turn in the political sphere as it had given us the opportunity to broaden our understanding of the world.
This is all to say that even as I try to avoid jumping to a conclusion when something in the news happens, it does. I understand that I have inherent biases that create narratives for the events that I watch. Challenging it by delaying my own opinion helps to get me to see it from a few different angles. It allows for truths and facts to surface that I might not have seen if I formed that opinion too soon as our beliefs and biases act as blinders to the truth.
Maybe if we all somehow find a way to slow down, to reserve our opinion in these matters, we might find that there is always more to the story than we are willing to see. Opinions formed from the blinders of our beliefs only discredit us from the truth. And the truth can set us free.