Last week a video of “Elizabeth from Knoxville” received a lot of play on social media. On Jan. 6, eyes bleary and tearing, she told White House Correspondent Hunter Walker that she’d been pushed out of the Capitol and maced.
She explained, ”We’re storming the Capitol, it’s a revolution.”
Elizabeth was apparently totally unaware she was confessing to a federal crime.
There are important legal differences between a demonstration and a revolution.
Both are open protests against the government, but the first says, “We must be heard.” The second says, “We’re taking over.” For example, Black Lives Matter called for the system to punish policemen who murder when it’s not necessary. That’s far different than attacking the Capitol in an attempt to overturn an election approved by local and state officials and upheld by the courts.
Martin Luther King and his followers demonstrated that it is possible to be heard without violence. Americans by and large have a conscience and want to do the right thing. We are proud of the liberties our country guarantees. Violence, however, calls for counter-action, not support.
Unfortunately, some Americans prefer the teachings of Rambo to those of MLK.
Wikipedia lists 497 incidents of civil unrest in the United States, but only 30 instances of rebellion. The five involving attacks on the national government include the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the taking of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Leaders of right-wing extremists are finding their day in D.C. a great recruiting tool. Some have published new online brochures and started new social media channels. The channel of the “Proud Boys, a violent far-right group,…more than doubled its followers to over 34,000 from 16,000” (New York Times, Jan. 16).
The right wing militias–the U.S. has about 70–seem to regard civil war as an exciting time of heroism followed by utopian bliss.
But a jaunt to the Capitol to beat up police and sit in the seats of the powerful is not how civil wars go.
Our Civil War lasted four years and resulted in 600,000 to 850,000 deaths. The North won, not by brilliant military tactics, but by destroying the roads, railroads, and, finally, the crops of the South. Poverty and starvation haunted the region for the next century.
Those who started the war because they couldn’t get their way through peaceful means, lost their influence, property, and income.
Most revolutions do a lot more damage than ours did. It lasted less than 8 years, killed about 25,000 troops, and left our economy growing. Its success didn’t depend entirely on our militias having learned tactics from the Indians. English merchants pressured the crown because they wanted their markets in America open again.
The French Revolution had a much worse outcome. After 11 years and 220,000 deaths, France didn’t get the democratic government the original rebels had yearned for. They got a dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose attempt to conquer Europe lasted another 12 years and killed over a million of the French and their allies.
And there were no missiles in those days that could pinpoint a target from hundreds of miles away.
Foreign nations helped our forefathers because they wanted to end the English monopoly of our markets. They didn’t help the French because they wanted to end competition from them. I can’t know how our allies today would react. Probably most would only get involved after Russia or China did.
History has many lessons. We rely on elections for a reason.