A significant part of the mob breaking into the U.S. Capitol building this week appear to represent a large part of the country’s population that feel alienated, left behind – the forgotten Americans. Yes, there were the lunatics, professional trouble-makers and certifiable morons among the insurrectionists, but they are a part of every demonstration, protest, coup d’etat or riot. They can, and should, be dealt with severely and quickly. Lunatics make good media copy, but they are basically an irrelevant nuisance.
What I saw this week was an element of U.S. society that I knew existed, but to which I had never really paid much attention. And that’s the problem. Apparently, few others have either.
The young woman who was shot and killed in the attack on the Capitol was a military veteran of two combat tours in the Middle East. She had been in the U.S. Air Force for 15 years, owned a small business, and yet was lost. There were no more significant psychological problems involved in her life than most of us have, but she felt left out, forgotten and ignored. Joining QAnon was probably an act of desperation rather than a belief in its tenets. She had a reason for acting the way she did – she felt she was one of the forgotten Americans.
What I heard in the street interviews during the assault was exactly the same sentiment.
“We are desperate; there is no choice; we want our country back.”
Yes, we can describe them as domestic terrorists, but they have a point of view. There are 75 million of them who voted for Trump. Not all of them joined the assault, obviously, but most of them, seemed to genuinely believe they were acting as patriots.
Regardless of whether we subscribe to their beliefs or not, we ignore them, and their concerns, at our peril. (See my previous blogs citing Ex- U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s comments to Fareed Zakaria about the dangers of ignoring large sections of the population).
As I was writing this, I tried to put myself in the position of these forgotten Americans. They seem to be mostly working class whites, or what we used to call “Blue-collar” workers. In other words, the backbone of the historical U.S. economic growth. They were also the main U.S. contributors to World Wars I and II. If we’ve forgotten them, we should be ashamed, and should re-access our actions.
I also realized that, if I was sitting in their shoes, I would believe the words of the President. I was brought up to believe the President told the truth. Watching my television set, I might note that almost none of the reporting had anything to do with me. It could easily feel that it was all about blacks, LGBTQ groups, muslims, foreign aggressors. Again, none of that had anything to do with me. It was easy to understand why they are “Pissed off!”
I submit that ignoring them will only increase their anger, and encourage the rise of more lunatic fringes.
Time to wake up, recognize the Forgotten Americans for what they are, find out what they want, and democratically, fairly, and openly address their issues. To fail in this, or to just ignore it, only invites more rebellion and bloodshed.