Opinion: January 6th was a distorted echo of broader anger at an injust society / by Betsy Sweet

Photo: The volatile scene on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. By Valerio Pucci/Shutterstock.

It’s been a year and I still think about January 6th a lot.  Not so much about who did what, when and who was behind it.  The House Committee is figuring that out and those people must be held accountable.

What I can’t stop thinking about it what fueled the outrage and desperation of thousands of people that resulted in them resorting to violence to try and take down our democracy. And I can’t stop thinking about it because I think it is an outrage and desperation that I feel too.

At its core, I believe it is betrayal. I think the vast majority of us – on the right and the left – feel betrayed.  Betrayed by a government and politicians and an economic system that doesn’t serve us. That doesn’t do its job. And that doesn’t really give a damn about us. About how we really live. About how hard life is for so many, and how just making ends meet – let alone living the American dream – is beyond the reach of so many of us.

There is a political and economic elite for whom the system is working. And for now, they are in charge of most things: Our government, the structures, and policies we live by, and the economy we are trying to survive in.

And the result? We have an economy where the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in over a decade while the Amazon and Tesla guys are making billions a day. Most of us can’t afford an unexpected $500 expense. We are so frustrated with working wages and conditions that we are quitting in record numbers. And politicians on either side don’t support the will of the majority – because the vast majority of us want universal health care, paid time off when we are sick, immediate action on climate change and addressing the weather extremes that are killing us.

We want the rich guys to pay taxes like we do, and we want our kids to be able to get an education.  But they can’t get it done. So, the rage builds. And the sense of betrayal, because in a democracy it’s not supposed to work this way. You know, majority rules and all of that.

The divide is not really right v. left, it is really up and down. The “Ups” are that political and economic elite. The “Downs” are the rest of us. And that makes us mad. Really mad. And, regardless of our politics, we have a lot in common. We want a lot of the same things I mentioned above.

When people are mad, betrayed, and desperate they look for someone to blame and someone to take their anger out on. We turn on each other and people we perceive as different, like people of color and New Americans, – as the “Ups” are quite happy to stir us up, gets us fighting each other in the hopes we don’t look at the real problem, at the real divide. And it has worked.

January 6th was the pinnacle of it working. Except maybe it didn’t work.

Democracy survived, bruised and battered, but still here and the desperation is now being felt by the “Ups” – the economic and political elite.

We are catching on, even if we haven’t named it yet. Workers are starting to organize and demand better wages and working conditions. We are less and less willing to elect people who don’t support what we need to live.

People, especially young people, are turning away from traditional political parties in droves as they fail to meet our most basic needs or protect our fundamental rights. We are less and less willing to elect people who don’t support what we need to live.

Their desperation is showing – they are having to resort to gerrymandering and voter suppression to stay elected.  I think these billionaires going to outer space have a sense that they better get out of here soon, because we aren’t going to take the inequity much longer. Every day we realize more and more that the divide is up and down and the good news is that the desperation is shifting from us to them.

I believe we are going to come together, and we are going to demand that our democracy be restored and do the job of getting us what the real majority of us need and want. So on this January 6th, I’m actually a little hopeful. I think we can end the “Up” and “Down” divide. But it will take vigilance and work. As the great John Lewis said, “Democracy is not a state of being. It is an action. And we each must do our part.”

Author: Betsy Sweet is a progressive activist who has spent 40 years working to bring about a more just, equitable Maine. She has run for Governor, US Senate and now continues to advocate at the state house, hosts a weekly TV show “Maine Challenge”, is a political commentator on WCSH. She is a mom of 3 grown daughters and one very adorable dog.

Source: Maine Beacon, January 7, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/opinion-january-6th-was-a-distorted-echo-of-broader-anger-at-an-injust-society/