How do these two words go together? In the month since the insurrection, most of us are absorbing Jan. 6th. Accounts of the day have come slowly. It’s often difficult to process trauma immediately after a horrific and life threatening event. But we are learning more in the aftermath. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez shared her account with us. She has been the target of much ire and gaslighting because she is an outspoken woman of color. She has “radical” and “socialist” ideas. She must be quieted. She wants Republicans to own up to their own complicity in the events of that day of insurrection. The White Supremacists hate her. She dares to speak out.
Marjory Taylor Green, the newly elected Congresswoman ( now stripped of her committee assignments because of her radical conspiracy theories and her own threats against AOC and “the squad) called AOC’s account a hoax– their favorite word.
Gaslighting. (The term is defined, below, but came to be used to describe this sort of abuse in a 1944 film- “Throughout the film version of the story, Paula sees gaslights dimming and brightening for no apparent reason. Gregory convinces her that it’s all inside her head. In reality, he was switching the attic lights on and off to create the gaslight flickers. He manipulated her belief in her own perception of reality through the gaslights.”
Another newly elected Congresswoman, Nancy Mace from South Carolina, discounted AOC’s version of the events of Jan. 6th and accused her of being dramatic and lying.
But wait- that very same Congresswoman shared her own similar account in the immediate aftermath of the attack that affirmed AOC’s account. Hmmm. What’s going on? From the first article highlighted above:
Mace’s misleading attack on Ocasio-Cortez illustrates how, in the lead-up to Trump’s impeachment trial next week, Republicans are shamelessly trying to weaponize the January 6 insurrection against Democrats. Instead of holding Trump or Republicans who indulged his lies about election to account, Republicans like Mace who initially took the insurrection seriously have pivoted to attacking Democrats and arguing it’s time for the country to move on.
The party that mostly voted to let their leader, Donald Trump, get away with his incitement to violence and the resulting insurrection, is circling the wagons. Anyone who dared to speak out against him is now either with him or against him. Nancy Mace voted to certify the election of Joe Biden. Now she is paying the price and has to lie to remain in the party that has increasingly become the party of Trump and White Supremacy, anti-semitism and gaslighting.
White Supremacy is not new, of course, having been with us since the founding of our country and before. And it is not unique to America. Intolerance of anyone different from the dominant caste has led to violence, wars, subjugation, torture, and more. So much has been written about this that my observations are just among thousands of others who have written about and talked about the last month in terms of the history many of us have been ignoring. Now that it is out in the open and so obvious, our nation is staring at how we will proceed and to try to deal with the White Supremacy and concomitant anger that almost killed our democracy.
White Supremacy goes with the gun culture. That is an unavoidable conclusion. I can’t stop thinking about the speech on the floor of the House on Thursday by Representative and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. His passionate speech, along with his walking amongst his colleagues with the enlarged poster of the now familiar Facebook post of Rep. Marjory Taylor Green, was the point. But the Republicans ignored his point and voted (199-10) to allow a White Supremacist conspiracy theory believer to keep her committee assignments. Allowing the violent threat to members of their own to be OK is stunning, to say the least.
Yesterday morning Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, wrote this about the vote on Thursday:
For more than five years, I begged Republicans to reject the creeping anti-Semitism Donald Trump brought to the party, noting on the eve of the 2016 election that “when a demagogue begins to identify scapegoats, the Jews are never far behind.”
But I never expected I would see in my lifetime, in the United States of America, what occurred on the floor of the House this week. One hundred ninety-nine Republican members of Congress rallied to the defense of a vile, unapologetic anti-Semite in their ranks who calls for assassination of her opponents.
This is more than a Republican problem; it’s an American problem. You don’t have to be a scholar of 20th-century Europe to know what happens when the elected leaders of a democracy condone violence as a political tool and blame the country’s ills on the Jews. (…)
This isn’t idle bigotry, for she “liked” a social media suggestion that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who has committed “a crime punishable by death.” She posted on social media about hanging Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, approved of a suggestion that FBI agents be executed, and posted a photo of herself with an automatic weapon next to three Democratic members of Congress, calling herself their “worst nightmare.”
On the House floor this week, she offered no apology and no direct mention of her anti-Semitic and violent statements. Using Christ-on-the-cross imagery, she condemned those who would “crucify me in the public square for words that I said, and I regret, a few years ago.”
Because they refused to vote against one of their own, so obviously dangerous and vile, they have become the party of bigotry, hate anti-Semitism and White Supremacy. And where does the gaslighting come in? Later in his column, Milbank uses quotes of some of the House Republicans blaming this all on the rest of their House colleagues and on the country. The “whataboutism” employed by this group of apologists for their own deplorable behavior has become the M.O. of the Trumpism that has invaded the once proud party of Abraham Lincoln. More from the Milbank’s column:
Republicans have used similar gaslighting in their response to impeachment. Trump helped organize a rally, incited his supporters to attack the Capitol and refused to call for an end to their murderous spree as they rampaged in search of elected officials in their hopes of overturning the election. But Democrats are the ones doing something “unconstitutional” by holding an impeachment trial after he left office?
Insurrection? Sedition? Assassination? Move on, the Republicans say. These actions and threats are mere “distractions” from the real issues.
Republicans defended Greene with absurd parallels. They attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for past anti-Semitic statements — omitting the crucial distinction that Omar, after Democrats roundly condemned her words, said, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. … I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene, by contrast, remained unrepentant. On Friday, she held a celebratory news conference, again refusing to recant, or apologize for, her violent and anti-Jewish words and gestures.
Gaslighting is a term used to describe an abusive relationship. If you need a reminder, here is a definition:
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.
Trump is a master at gaslighting. He abused the country and his followers bought it. They, too, were gaslighted by him and continue to follow him and apologize for him. But he was the symptom of the underlying disease. Until we grasp, as a nation, what has befallen us, we will not be able to get out of the relationship. White Supremacy is here. It is the proverbial “camel sticking its’ nose under the tent”. The Republican party allowed the camel in and the result was the first of what could be other attacks on our democracy. The warnings are there.
In case we think otherwise, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison held a Zoom town hall presentation, attended by 260 people, to highlight the White Supremacism in largely white Minnesota and across the country. From the article:
From 1994 to 2020, there have been nearly 900 domestic anti-Semitic and racial terrorist attacks, and the majority of those have been by right-wing groups, said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). Racial and religious hatred were the reasons supremacists recently killed people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a church in Charlotte, N.C.
“The JCRC works well with law enforcement to protect all houses of worship, not just synagogues,” he said. “We all have to work together, whatever threats come.”
Paul, who helped investigate the 2015 mass shooting in Las Vegas, said the FBI has seen an increase in violent rhetoric and the acceptance of violence to advance ideologies. The internet allows individuals to craft their own ideologies without being part of a group, he said.
“As the seriousness of domestic terrorist attacks grows, they become part of the public narrative,” he said.
Macalester College Prof. Brian Lozenski, who researches how people get involved in white extremism, said part of the cause comes from the country’s Founding Fathers’ push for white domination through the restrictions on Blacks on property ownership, citizenship and the ability to hold offices.
“We need a national recognition of the story we tell ourselves about the country,” he said.
The story we tell ourselves has been twisted in favor of the dominant caste ( see Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste) We have normalized the violence. We have pretended that it’s just part of our country. Gun toting Americans have become our gun culture gone wrong.
This is NOT NORMAL It is unique to America. We can do something about it. Just carrying a deadly weapon is threatening enough to those not in the dominant caste. It’s a way to keep power and control. In order to be in charge, they must gaslight us all into thinking we are the ones to blame. We are to be feared- those of us who don’t think like them. They must use their symbols- their flags, their weapons, their MAGA and “Q” hats, their anger. Some believe they must carry their guns in the halls of Congress. And now there are metal detectors to stop that from happening and fines for refusing to go through the metal detectors. A few entitled Congress members have already been fined. I guess following the law and procedures is not for them- just for everyone else.
It is going to be difficult to “quit” the abuser. The dominant caste does not give up power easily. We can see that the Republicans are having a hard time processing that Joe Biden actually did win the election after putting us through months of gaslighting trying to convince us otherwise. We, like victims of abuse and gun violence, are suffering from PTSD. I would like to feel hopeful that an intervention in the form of the election and changing of the “guard” will begin that process. With some common sense and fortitude we can begin to heal. This week we will see reruns of the attack during the impeachment hearing in the Senate. It will bring it all back. But sometimes that is what is needed to move on.
Will we hold those responsible for the Jan. 6th attack accountable? Time will tell. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, shedding light on the abuse, the threats, the events of Jan. 6th and the history of white nationalism and domestic terrorism is a way out of the mire and the twisted history of our democracy. Our democracy can be saved if we hold the light up to the truth.