When we witnessed the on-the-ground lynching of George Floyd on May 25 it caused a reckoning of sorts, but not of the magnitude of the one we might be about to experience. A serious reckoning of one sort or another could be in the making.
This truly is a “make it or break it” moment in our nation’s history. We have to go all the way back to 1865 and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to find any incident comparable in devastation to the national psyche as to what we’ve just experienced in our nation’s Capitol on January 6.
The FBI is now “asking the public for tips, information and videos that will help them identify people involved in the insurrection at the Capitol.” But what will happen to the accused once they are arrested and charged?
Remember Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who staged a successful armed standoff against the federal government in 2014? Emboldened by getting away with that stunt, on January 2, 2016, he put his son, Ammon Bundy, and a group of far-right armed extremists, up to seizing and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, and continued to occupy it for 40 days. This was (and is) federal property they were trespassing on.
While some of the perpetrators received relatively light prison sentences after their convictions, the leaders of this insurrection against the federal government were eventually acquitted. Are we to expect similar such acquittals once the Capitol insurrectionists are brought before the Bar of Justice?
This could turn out to be white privilege on steroids. No matter what evidence federal or local prosecutors present, no matter how strong the cases against the insurgents, it still takes a dozen of their fellow citizens to bring in a verdict of guilty. And that just might not happen in some of these cases, if not the majority of them.
There is “jury nullification” which is described as, “A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness.” In other words, white extremist jurors protecting white extremist actors, knowing there is little the law can do to stop them or change acquittals. Double jeopardy would come into play.
However, if any of these seditionists are allowed to walk free without suffering any consequences (other than the inconvenience of being put on trial), others of their ilk, stripe and mindset will feel emboldened to commit similar acts of aggression against the government going forward. Why not?
It’s similar to police brutality; as long as there are no repercussions, it will continue to occur. Here’s the proof: Has the killing of black men by law enforcement stopped yet in America?
If that happens, if the majority of the members of the armed mob win acquittal, we’re heading toward a very dark and dangerous place in America. Certainly our political leaders and law enforcement are aware of this potential outcome, but are no doubt at just a big of a loss as to what to do about it as you, I or anyone else.
Here’s a hint: Remove tRump from office in a manner that assures he can never run again. Cutting off the head of the snake is just about our only option — and then we’ll just have to pray it works.