by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the stranger elements of the current era is the juxtaposition of the cataclysmic and ridiculous.
No one denies that riots in the Capitol have a certain end-of-the-line feeling about them. At the same time, the aesthetics of the riot itself, with House floor invaders dressed in wolf pelts and snapping selfies, make the whole thing a little difficult to take seriously. It reminds one of cosplay, in which people dress up as their favorite action heroes, or of LARPing, live-action role-playing: both are essentially acting out video games.
Sure, we’ve been facing a collapse of institutional trust and what is likely to be continued and escalating political violence since summer, but put me face to face with the country’s most reviled “terrorist,” and I’m not sure I could keep from laughing. CNN and MSNBC anchors gravely push the need for broad censorship and a domestic PATRIOT Act to counter the threat of extremism, alongside video of a man in a Superman suit with a Trump mask. Osama bin Laden seems almost decorous—if exponentially more evil—by comparison.
At the inauguration of the 46th president, thousands upon thousands of soldiers lined the streets of the Mall and Capitol Hill, a facsimile of a nation under siege. Yet when the cameras were gone and the role played, our National Guardsmen were relegated to parking garages and Port-A-Potties, especially poor and foolish treatment if we were to take seriously the offensive cries about their potential “extremism.” …
… It’s bad enough that the end of the American experiment in self-government seems more of a realistic possibility than at any point in most of our lifetimes, but to confront that it might come to such a ridiculous end is at once too much to bear and perfectly appropriate. Perhaps not knowing whether to laugh or cry is a feature, not a bug.