What Western Europe Can Teach the US About Insurrection

The sedition inside the US Government, the attack on democracy and the assault on the American experiment, has not ended with the securing of the US Capitol Building. Wednesday, January 6th was just the beginning, condoned by a police force and justice system that treated insurrectionists like children who’d been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Yes, this attempted coup was incited by Donald Trump, his republican supporters and the media echo chamber that candy-coats his lies, but the aftermath will be determined by the American response. There is a fine line between freedom and fascism and when a Confederate flag waves in the capitol building, we’ve crossed that line.

As an American writer, I’ve detailed the dangers of fascism in foreign countries. I’ve written in condemnation of the political prisoners in Catalonia, charged with sedition for holding an illegal referendum. Now, as I sit quarantined in my Barcelona apartment, staring at photos of a bare-chested man, waving a Trump flag and occupying the US Capitol Building, I can’t help but wonder, where are the sedition charges? The United States is meant to signify freedom, and yesterday we saw exactly who that freedom applies to.

A group of armed men and women attacked the US capitol with the purpose of preventing the fair and peaceful transition of power — many of those people slept in their own beds that same night. The United States of America just gave these insurrectionists a free pass to do it again. It is the equivalent of winking at a child when you dole out an easy punishment.

Gun purchases in the US have hit historic highs in these past months. What are we preparing for? In Spain, Catalan politicians sit in jail for inciting a peaceful referendum, for hiding ballot boxes behind church pews and in the backs of wheelchairs. These past months in Spain, we’ve seen protests take the form of marches, songs, and road blocks. Flying rubber bullets from the police and trash fires were the height of violence. In the United States, 40% of people report owning a gun or living in a household with a gun owner. Trash fires are the least of our concerns.

Already we’ve seen the ripple effects of the attack on the US Capitol building, as trump goons held satellite rallies in their respected states. Meanwhile the lame duck president and Senate Republicans who instigated this attack continue to hold office. Donald Trump must be charged, the GOP Senators who opposed the election results must be charged and every single person who waged an attack on the Capitol must be charged. Anything less is a sly wink and nod that empowers the next attempt at insurrection.

Francisco Franco’s coup to overthrow the democratically elected government in Spain was only partially successful — he didn’t actually win the initial insurrection. The result was a civil war and countless deaths, including the organized assassination of intellectuals and objectors. US citizens marched into the State Capitol waving the confederate flag and they were not charged. Why wouldn’t they try again? Why wouldn’t they see yesterday as a minor success?

Yes, the insurrection was quelled. Yes, Joe Biden was ratified as the 46th president of the United States. Yes, the US is a Western democracy. Coups happen in Western democracies. After years writing about Catalan independence and Spanish political history, I’ve learned that Francoism has not died — it still lives on in the political system. What reason do we have to believe that Trumpism will die on January 20th?

Trumpism will live on, and the attack on American democracy will worsen. The reasons for this are clear and simple. Trumpism was named after Trump, but it was not birthed with his ascension to power. I’m a jewish girl who grew up in a small Pennsylvania town with a black stepfather and two gay uncles. I grew up with Trumpism. Nazis existed in Germany long before Hitler, they just lacked the name, organization and rallying cry that their leader gave them. Also the deep issues that drive division and unrest in the US will only worsen in the coming months. The Democrats will control the presidency and both houses of Congress, leaving many Republicans to feel disenfranchised. The coronavirus will get worse before it gets better. People will be hungry, jobless, and terrified. Fear motivates violence. And finally, if the December 6th insurrection tells Trump supporters anything, it’s that the United States will tolerate attempted Coups; insurrectionists will not be punished. If at first you don’t succeed and are calmly escorted from the building, why wouldn’t you try again?

The sedition inside the United States Government cannot be ignored. The events that transpired must not be reduced to a headline, nor may they be relegated to history. The December 6th insurrection is a tell of what’s to come.

Essayist and travel writer. Health and public policy advocate. Jennifer has written for New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, and Thrive Global.