In my report about the board of commissioner’s meeting of January 17, 2023, I wrote: “Commissioner Parrish moved that the town stop sending appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, and water heaters to the county landfill, which incurs a significant expense, and suggested that instead, we begin sending those items and “anything metal” to Asheboro Recycling where they will pay us for many of those items; smart move.”

It has since been brought to my attention that our public works department had already been taking these large metal items and recyclable appliances to Liberty Recycling Center, where we were already being compensated for those items, for quite some time.

Commissioner Parrish should have known all this before he made his presentation last Tuesday night but made his argument as if it were some great new revelation. In truth, it seems this was anything but new information, and credit for these savings belongs elsewhere.

Randolph Arts Guild cancels Fall Festival for second year due to pandemic.

The Randolph Arts Guild issued a press release earlier today announcing the cancellation, for the second year in a row, of the Asheboro Fall Festival, which was scheduled to take place on October 2 and 3 of this year.

This news will disappoint many across our community and will have a negative economic impact on numerous non-profits and small businesses across the county and the region, but given the refusal of so many members of our community to get vaccinated against Covid-19, wear masks properly, if at all, and practice social distancing, this was not only predictable, it was preventable.

The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of a few leaders, especially county and municipal commissioners, school board members, and others who hold positions of influence in our community. These failures of leadership amount to a dereliction of duty in most cases, because most of these people know better, but for the sake of political expediency, they have chosen to encourage risky behavior that has and will continue to cost our friends and neighbors their health, their livelihoods, and in some cases their lives.

Vaccines work, and Covid-19 vaccines are no exception. No, they won’t prevent you from catching or transmitting the coronavirus, but they do not alter your DNA. Nor do they make your testicles swell or cause impotence (Ivermectin and venereal diseases do cause those problems).

The vaccines are safe for almost everyone, and one (Pfizer) has now been fully approved for anyone over twelve years old. Taking the vaccine does not make you a sheep, but it greatly reduces the odds of getting sick enough to be hospitalized or dying. Getting vaccinated helps slow the spread, and therefore the potential mutation of the virus into something even more dangerous.

Please, be an adult and get your shots. Thousands of us across the county have already done so with only a handful of very rare complications. You are far more likely to get food poisoning from a local fast food joint than you are to get sick from taking a Covid-19 vaccine.

Vaccines work. Be a warrior, not a wuss. Take your shots.

Some people just don’t get it, and apparently never will.

Because sometimes it just seems like the world is upside-down and backward.

As predicted last week the illiterate seventeen-year-old high school dropout continued to escalate his intentional noisemaking activities all week until Friday night, as I walked past our dining room window with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I saw the little rat coast his dirtbike across the front yard, revving the engine for all he was worth – which, admittedly isn’t much – while staring at my house and grinning like the proverbial possum.

He had ridden most of the last few days, from mid-morning until after dark, and started his riding activities just after 7:30 AM, Friday morning. I left for a job and returned just before 1 PM that day. It was quiet for a few hours that afternoon, and then, just after 5 PM, he started again. Shortly after, I observed the lap across the front yard and the shit-eating grin on his face.

Bear in mind, this kid has a fair-sized area behind the house in which to ride. He doesn’t have to bring that bike up to the street. The house he lives in with his great-grandmother and a couple of uncles sits about twenty feet behind the sidewalk; their front yard is tiny.

I called 911 and requested enforcement of our town’s noise ordinance. When an officer, our local detective, arrived I proceeded to explain the situation to him, how this has been going on for years with constant escalation despite my best efforts to ignore the constant harassment. The detective is familiar with the animosity I get from the so-called adults in that family, having witnessed it first-hand a couple of years ago when my aunt backed into a car illegally parked on the sidewalk across from my driveway.

I told the detective that I was willing to compromise on the noise issue: if they will keep the dirtbike and ATVs behind the buildings on the lot, on the track the kids have worn out in the back, I was willing to look the other way on the noise, provided they didn’t bring in anything louder than what is there now to the site.

The detective walked across the street, talked to the boy, and came back a little later. He informed me that the boy would abide by my offer, then he left. It was quiet for the rest of the evening, and all morning yesterday, until about 1 PM, and then Hell broke loose on Church Street.

I had accumulated a large pile of deadfall in my firepit over the winter, so yesterday after I cut the spring weeds in the yard I lit the fire. The old man across the street, I’ll call him B, came out almost immediately and began recording my activities, which I knew based upon a previous conversation with the chief of our fire department, when these people called them on me last year for the same thing, was perfectly legal. I smiled at the old man and gave a friendly five-fingered wave.

When I finished burning the branches it was about 4 PM. We usually eat around five o’clock and watch a few hours of television after that, so I put a tenderloin on the grill and began cooking it slowly. Meanwhile, all afternoon, the boy and his next-door neighbors had brought several additional ATVs to the lot, all running in tandem. There’s really not enough room back there for that many to operate safely at once, but that’s none of my concern.

And then it happened; the motorcycle got driven up past the buildings, not once but twice, and not by the boy, by the little girl next-door’s father. Now, the compromise I had offered was that the bike and all other ATVs would not be operated beyond the back of the buildings behind the house. When the little girl’s father rode it beyond that point the compromise agreement became void, and I called 911 again because this has gone on for years. I had followed the advice given me by our police chief, to simply ignore them, for a year, a pandemic year in which my family has been isolated in our home – especially my wife – and that strategy had gotten us nothing but an escalation of the bad behavior.

The detective showed up and I explained to him what had happened. He acted exasperated and stated that the whole thing seems petty, and it is, but not on my part. I’ve tried to get along. I’ve looked the other way. I’ve explained to clients on the telephone that no, I was not speaking to them from a motocross race. It’s just my shitty, disrespectful neighbors making noise.

While explaining the chain of events leading up to my call I mentioned to the detective that I had burned a few twigs in my firepit that afternoon. He interrupted me to point out that I had violated a town ordinance in doing so. I disagreed and his reaction let me know he was irritated with me.

He then tried to tell me that there was no violation of the noise ordinance because the property lines in question have to be more than fifty feet apart to qualify for enforcement. These two houses sit across a narrow street with less than twenty feet separating our properties.

I knew this was incorrect and said so. The detective indicated that needed to look the ordinance up and review it, and went to his vehicle to do so. While the detective reviewed the ordinance I called the town commissioner responsible for the police department, who also happens to be an officer at another local agency.

I related all of the above to the commissioner and was informed that, no, it’s not illegal to burn sticks in my firepit, and yes, the noise ordinance is enforceable for my complaint. The commissioner said he would call the police chief and get this straightened out. A few minutes later the detective exited his vehicle and went across the street to speak to the old people, Granny and B, who had taken seats on their front porch to observe the proceedings and offer commentary, like the old Statler and Waldorf characters on The Muppet Show when I was a kid.

Sadly, Granny and B aren’t nearly as humorous. I heard voices rising. The boy came up from the backyard and started running his mouth before being told to cease and desist by the detective. The boy then turned and told his comrades to “shut it down”.

Within a few minutes, every child and adult in the extended family household next door had migrated up to Granny’s front porch, all attempting to lodge irrelevant complaints about me or my dogs, all out of turn, yelling over each other at times. It was sad.

The father of the little girl from the house behind and next to Granny’s lost his temper at one point – he had apparently purchased a large, expensive ATV for his kid to ride that day – and stormed off, accusing me of having called Crimestoppers on him, which was news to me. This is the same man who was almost arrested a few months ago when my wife called 911 after she heard him threatening me one Saturday morning.

Anyway, the bottom line was that I have a right to force them to stop riding if the noise bothers me, period, and since these folks had decided to double, or I should say, triple down on the noise after the police came out Friday night, yes, it bothered me and my wife. It’s been bothering us for years!

I did finally get the little girl’s father to talk to me, and I let him know that as long as she only rides her ATV behind the buildings I will not complain about her activities.

Several of us stood out there talking for another hour, with the neighbors all trying to make arguments for why I should have to listen to the racket from that godawful bike, from dawn until after dark, seven days a week. The detective even tried to make the argument that if the boy was out there riding, “at least he’s not breaking into houses, getting people pregnant, and breaking laws.”

Really? I get that this is a small town and the police department has a difficult job to do, and that job involves keeping the peace, but sometimes when you’re a cop you have to do things that leave some people to see you as the bad guy. Those people are usually the ones intentionally breaking the rules; they are the bad guys.

At some point, my wife and I realized that there was nothing more to be done. We had made it clear to all, and I hope the body camera footage captured it, that well-maintained ATVs ridden behind the buildings are acceptable, but given the fact that the compromise I had offered the night before had been violated so soon, the bike must not run anymore, ever. Not even when I’m away at work.

Today, Sunday afternoon, there has been a steady stream of visitors across the street, including the boy’s actual grandfather, who has quite a history with the local police chief and a well-earned reputation for misbehavior. He parked his car as close to the street as legally possible, opened the doors, and serenaded us all with several songs on the radio before losing interest and turning it off.

This is only noteworthy because one of the countercomplaints Granny and B kept throwing out last night was my habit of practicing my guitar on my porch in warm weather. It’s an unamplified guitar, usually pointed away from the street. I don’t play it very loud because I’m not very skilled and unlike some people around here, I try not to disturb my neighbors with unnecessary noise.

The kids all got out and rode their ATVs for a few hours today, in the back as they should, but I did hear the dirtbike crank up a couple of times. The party seems to have broken up and all the guests have gone away. The neighborhood is quiet… for now.

Your rights end where mine begin.

Not the actual kid or bike.

I try to get along with my neighbors. I really do, but some of my neighbors make it very difficult. One, in particular, a seventeen-year-old boy who dropped out of school a few years ago and still has no job, makes life on Church Street pretty miserable. You see, he likes to ride off-road vehicles, ATVs, four-wheelers, and dirtbikes. I get it, those are fun to ride. I had a dirtbike of my own when I was a kid, and I spent many hours riding trails around my father’s four-acre property outside the town where we lived.

The trouble here is that we are not “outside of town”, we are in the very middle of town, in what could rightly be called a historic neighborhood: the old mill village. The homes here mostly sit less than thirty feet from the street, and the street is little more than an old buckboard wagon road overlaid with a layer of asphalt.

It’s a tight neighborhood. If you have your windows open you can hear every word the neighbors say on their front porch. Many a spring night I have laid awake in bed, forced to listen to the rantings of the boy across the street, or his mother when she visits, basically screaming at the top of their lungs because they have no “inside voice”. And the words they use are generally filled with curses and eff-bombs.

For much of the past few months, I have looked the other way when the boy rides his off-road vehicles, seemingly from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, even in the rain. We had what amounts to a warzone here last summer when the boy’s cousin would bring a large ATV without a muffler over and literally rattle our windows with it. I think the police eventually convinced them not to bring that one back into town.

For a while, the only vehicles being operated were smaller four-wheeler types, fairly quiet, and mostly they rode (there’s a little girl from another house who rides with him most days) in the back of the property, away from the street and my house. This was not a problem. If people want to let their children ride without helmets, as dangerous as that is (a helmet saved my life around that age) it’s not my business.

But recently the boy obtained a loud dirtbike, which, by the way, is so poorly tuned it spews foul exhaust everywhere it goes and will not idle on its own, so the kid has to constantly rev the motor. And he rides it more and more often around the front. Thus far I have looked the other way and said nothing, but next week the weather will turn warm. My wife and I will want to enjoy the porch on the side of our house, or I will want to work in my gardens, which happen to be in the front yard because that’s the only place on our property with full sun.

So here’s the deal. We have a noise ordinance in this town. I have seen it. It applies to noisy dirtbikes in addition to loud stereos and such. It contains provisions for fines and, if that doesn’t work, impoundment of the equipment causing the violation.

I cannot reason with these neighbors of mine; I have tried and failed again and again. It always degenerates into name-calling and passive-aggressive behavior on the part of the oldest adults in the home. I will not attempt to engage them anymore. I have spent the past six months or more looking the other way and ignoring their efforts to get a rise out of me, and all it has gotten me is a slow escalation of their bullshit.

I am a property owner and a taxpayer, and as such, I have a right to enjoy my property as much as the next citizen of Ramseur. I tried to get the board of commissioners to consider an ordinance that would limit the use of ATVs and dirtbikes to properties in town large enough for them not to become such a nuisance, but my efforts were completely ignored.

So while the boy across the street may have the right to ride his motorbikes in his grandmother’s yard, I have an equal right to enjoy my yard without being constantly disturbed by the incessant noise and foul-smelling (not to mention carcinogenic) fumes of those poorly tuned vehicles.

Consider yourselves forewarned neighbors. Beginning sometime next week, and certainly by next weekend, I will begin calling the police to enforce our town’s noise ordinance, because your right to ride that damned bike ends where it infringes on my right to enjoy my home. Keep it behind the house, away from the street, and we’ll not have a problem.

Hate speech should not be free speech.

Police assault demonstrators in Graham, North Carolina, October 31, 2020. Photo Credit: Carli Brosseau

As I watched President Biden’s inauguration this morning I was torn between two disparate emotions, relief and apprehension. Relief that after four years of utter incompetence, blatant nepotism, and non-stop hateful rhetoric we now have a competent team taking over the executive branch of our federal government. Apprehension because only a child or a fool would believe that the swearing-in of a new president will change the hearts and minds of friends, neighbors, and family members who have spent the last four years showing us who they really are. As Maya Angelou once wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

I am glad that Donald Trump is gone. He and those who enabled him over the past four years did nothing but divide this nation and give relevancy to ideas most of us thought had long ago been relegated to the dustbin of history. We all knew there were still pockets of bigotry and hate scattered across this nation, but until Mr. Trump and his sycophants came along four years ago, most of those people kept their backward thoughts to themselves.

In that respect Donald Trump has actually done our nation an invaluable service: he showed us exactly who many of our neighbors really are; people who are fine with white supremacy, anti-Semitism, homophobia, violence, and other deplorable ideas as long as their team is in charge. Yes, that is really what it boils down to.

President Biden has called for unity, and that’s a worthy goal I support, but for real unity that is sustainable long term, there must be reconciliation, not a ceasefire. Those who participated in the Capitol riot must be charged, tried, and upon conviction punished for their actions, but those people did not arrive at those ideas on their own.

Over the years we have witnessed white supremacist ideologies and unfounded conspiracy theories move from fringe websites and late-night AM radio to mainstream media where greater exposure to larger audiences allowed those often dangerous ideas to spread like an unchecked pandemic. Those among us who spread hate, unfounded conspiracy theories, and outright lies, inspiring others to act out in violent ways, must be held accountable for their rhetoric.

Free speech is included in the First Amendment to our constitution because it is one of the most essential and precious rights we possess, but it is not a blank check to spew hate or inspire violence wherever we please without consequence. Free speech is a grave responsibility, especially in this digital age where we all have the power to send our words to the far reaches of the earth in an instant.

Justifications for limiting free speech often include something called the harm principle, first proposed by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, which suggests that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”  That means social disapproval or dislike for someone’s actions isn’t enough to justify intervention by the government unless there is a good chance those actions might harm someone else. For example, if you want to drink alcohol and you are a legal adult, you should be free to do so, but if you get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence, then you become a danger to your community and the government has a duty to infringe upon your rights to prevent you from harming others.

As an advocate for free speech I find myself torn today. Where do we draw the line in the sand on hate speech and symbols that reinforce ideas such as white supremacy? Our courts have determined that freedom of speech is not absolute. The American legal system generally sets limits on freedom of speech when it conflicts with other rights, such as in cases of libel, slander, obscenity, fighting words, or intellectual property. I believe it’s time for us to have an earnest conversation about hate speech and symbols in this country.

The Trump administration spent four years normalizing bigotry and white supremacy in America while the rest of the world looked on in horror. Trump made it seem acceptable to publicly mock people with disabilities and bragged about treating women as sexual playthings instead of persons fully equal to their male counterparts.

Worse, Donald Trump made it acceptable to use violence against Americans peacefully demonstrating against police brutality and murder, which, by the way, is also a right protected by the First Amendment. Following Trump’s lead law enforcement coast to coast escalated the use of force against peaceful protestors while Proud Boys, Boogaloos, and other white supremacist militias illegally carried guns to rallies without so much as a slap on the wrist.

If the mob on Capitol Hill two weeks ago had been predominantly people of color, you know as well as I do that Pennsylvania Avenue would have become a river of blood. This disparity is unacceptable and it must end now. For far too long we have allowed white supremacy to run unchecked in the United States of America, above and below the surface of our society.

Racist monuments to sedition and slavery, erected a century ago to oppress our Black brothers and sisters, must be removed from our public spaces and relegated to museums or the scrap yard. They are symbols of a failed insurrection based on white supremacy and the preservation of slavery and they have no place in twenty-first-century America as anything but teaching tools to show future generations how wrong their ancestors were. If real lasting unity is to be achieved this is a first step we must all take together.

Which side are you on?

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

Today many of my fellow Americans are wondering how we got to this place. Less than two weeks ago a sitting president, with the apparent aid of some Republican members of Congress, summoned a mob of perhaps more than a thousand of his supporters to Washington. D.C. and by his words and actions inspired many of them to assault the Capitol Building in an attempt to overturn the lawful result of the most scrutinized election in our nation’s history.

Many Americans believe that blame for this act of sedition and much of the violence and unrest we’ve experienced over the last four years falls at the feet of Donald Trump, but that is a short-sighted conclusion. What we witnessed on January 6, 2021, was only the latest battle in a long civil war for the soul of America that has been going on for well over a century.

As Stephen Marche recently wrote in The Globe And Mail, “There is a strong hope among American liberals and a portion of American conservatives that the storming of the Capitol represents the moment the fever breaks, the moment the American political insanity, fully revealed, finally begins to ebb… Forty-five percent of Republican voters support the assault on Washington.” 

Rush Limbaugh and his peers in the right-wing media bear considerable responsibility for last week’s insurrection, as do those who made the Limbaughs of our world possible when they killed the Fairness Doctrine, a longstanding FCC policy that required broadcasters to fairly present both sides of any issue to their audiences. When the rule was overturned in 1987, during the Reagan administration, right-wing propagandists like Limbaugh began entering mainstream American media, presenting a distorted, one-sided narrative that appealed to conspiracy theorists and far-right fringe elements of society.

The roots of today’s right-wing extremism can be found in the post-World War II reaction to FDR’s New Deal. Republicans and many wealthy business leaders hated any regulation of capitalism and the higher taxes they were forced to pay to fund popular New Deal programs that benefited working-class Americans. Opponents insisted that the New Deal reforms of the 1930s undermined liberty by redistributing tax revenues from working men to lazy people eager for a handout, and would, they insisted, bring socialism to America.

The socialism that wealthy enemies of the New Deal despised was not government control of the means of production that traditional Marxists espouse, but simply public policies that benefited all Americans and required the very rich to pay higher taxes to fund them. These uber-wealthy Americans, equivalent to the billionaire class today, have been using the same red-baiting tactic to divide and conquer the working-class since the end of Reconstruction, almost 150 years ago, but it’s not the only tool in their toolbox.

Whenever the socialism dog whistle loses its effectiveness, conservatives have another favorite means of dividing working people against ourselves: race. After the Supreme Court declared racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional in 1954, conservatives capitalized on the ideology of white supremacy by claiming that the federal government was redistributing the hard-earned tax dollars of white men to “lazy” Black people.

By the 1980s so-called “Movement Conservatives” were beginning to dominate the Republican Party, slashing business regulations and cutting social safety nets while pouring more and more revenue into military spending and enacting fiscal policies that redistributed money upward from working-class people to the very wealthy. At the same time, conservative talk radio began to dominate the airwaves, dividing working people through a twisted form of identity politics based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion that branded anyone who questioned the narrative as enemies of capitalism, and by extension, enemies of America.

From there it’s a relatively easy task to draw an unbroken line from events like the Weaver standoff at Ruby Ridge in 1992, which became a rallying point for white nationalists and neo-Nazis, to the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, that inspired Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, and many other acts of right-wing terrorism over the years.

In 2014, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher, owed the federal government more than $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on public land. Bundy refused to recognize federal authority and the government impounded his animals, but officials backed down when Bundy and his supporters showed up armed to the teeth. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) called Bundy and his militia “patriots”, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), called them “domestic terrorists” and warned, “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it.”

On January 6, 2021, right-wing domestic terrorists assaulted the seat of our democracy, the Capitol, imagining themselves as protectors of American individualism in the face of a socialist government takeover. They killed a police officer and assaulted others. They ransacked offices and desecrated both public areas and the legislative chambers. They came prepared to take hostages and, worse, to execute elected officials. The full picture of what these terrorists did and intended to do is slowly trickling out. The picture is grim and should alarm reasonable Americans of every political stripe.

Less than forty-eight hours after the mob stormed the citadel of our American democracy, Rush Limbaugh was on the air pouring gasoline on the fire. “There’s a lot of people out there calling for the end of violence,” Rush Limbaugh said on his broadcast the next day. “I am glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord, didn’t feel that way.”

Make no mistake, the riot at the Capitol was not just the work of Donald J. Trump. He bears responsibility for setting off this particular event, but as he stated in a 2017 press conference: “I didn’t come along and divide this country. This country was seriously divided before I got here.” As much as it pains me to say it, on that point Donald Trump and I agree. This country has been divided for as long as it has existed, and with each passing generation the division seems to only grow wider, and that that is no accident.

I’ve been watching the far right in this country become more militant, authoritarian, and aligned with the goals of fascism and white supremacy for decades, and trying to warn anyone willing to listen. That’s not to say that all Republican voters or even conservatives are Klansmen and neo-Nazis, but those elements do exist, and over the last few decades they have managed to infiltrate mainstream conservative politics. Today they appear to be solidifying their control of the Republican Party at almost every level of American government.

We’ve heard many calls for unity since the riot at the Capitol, mostly from Republican elected officials who see the writing on the wall and fear for their political futures, but now is not the time for unity. Not yet.

We cannot sweep this under the rug and allow those responsible for creating the powder keg of fascist anarchy and rebellion over the last few decades to escape without paying a price. We’ve been doing that since the Reconstruction era and each time we only end up kicking the can down the road, leaving future generations to face even worse crises. The worst among us – those willing to hold on to power, which they perceive as a birthright, at any price – will always return, willing to do anything, including domestic terrorism, to stay in control. 

As Stephen Marche of The Globe And Mail concludes, “Mr. Biden’s victory speech claimed that it was “a time to heal.” We can only hope that was empty rhetoric. The Republican Party, and its wide base of national support, does not believe in democracy. They’ve proved it consistently. They’re continuing to prove it even after the physical safety of their own members came under threat. There is every evidence to suggest that the moment American conservatives come to any power again they will use it to subvert the workings of legitimate government. It is not the time to heal.”

The time has come to choose. Do you stand with those who believe that all Americans have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or any of the many other labels used to divide us? Or do you stand with those on the far right who believe in white supremacy and holding on to power by any means, including terrorism and murder? That is the choice we face today. Which side are you on?

Terror and treason on Capitol Hill.

I’ve avoided writing about state and national issues in this space until now, but the events in our nation’s capital this week demand a response.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

On Wednesday, January 6,  2021, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C. at the request of President Donald J. Trump, inspired and emboldened by the idea that our elections are somehow fraudulent and outcomes rigged. This theory, as well as that of widespread voter fraud, has been debunked over and over, yet many still believe these lies because the president and other public figures they respect have exploited widespread gullibility among their followers for years.

All four of our living presidents have spoken out against this blatant act of treason, but perhaps President Clinton summed things up best when he said, “The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another…. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost. The election was free, the count was fair, the result was final.”

The insurrection on Capitol Hill marked the culmination, so far, of nearly a century’s worth of a slow fascist coup that a handful of extremely wealthy Americans have been trying to carry out and inching closer and closer to success each time they try. This conspiracy has existed since at least the 1930s, when a group of disgruntled business leaders tried to enlist retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, then the most highly decorated veteran in our history, to lead an army of mercenaries they intended to raise to assault Washington, D.C., overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt, and install a fascist dictator of their choosing. Butler refused and the coup never got off the ground then, but those behind it and their heirs have never ceased in working toward that goal.

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran a campaign based on a “Southern Strategy” designed to increase support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans. This drove a wedge through the Democratic Party and began the process of siphoning most racist Democrats into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party. 

Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 cemented the partisan division that today threatens to blossom into open civil war, but that’s not the only thing that happened during the Reagan era to undermine our representative democracy. In 1987 the FCC board, composed of mostly Reagan appointees, voted to end something called the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. This opened the door to right-wing media like Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News Channel.

Right-wing propagandists planted the seeds of dissension and mistrust, but it was radical Republicans like Newt Gingrich and others, past and present, who cultivated extremism and bigotry directed at Democrats, especially Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; all of which paved the way for a would-be dictator to step in and reap the bitter harvest. By exploiting outdated prejudices and the pain of working people across this country, left behind by an economic system that favors the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else, that is exactly what Donald Trump did in 2016.

What made matters worse was the open manipulation of public opinion by foreign operatives using social media, which was either ignored or encouraged by far-right extremists in Trump’s inner circle and Republicans across the board willing to endorse anything including criminal behavior as long as it furthered their agendas.

The insurrection of January 6, 2021, was cultivated by Trump and his enablers in Congress, especially Senate Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell. Trump told us this was going to happen. He would never agree to accept the outcome of the vote prior to the election and he technically still hasn’t acknowledged his defeat. Instead, he spent the last two months removing officials at the Pentagon and the Justice Department and replacing them with his own hand-picked stooges. This was planned, and when all is said and done a lot of people in the administration and many of those who followed Trump and Giuliani’s marching orders last Wednesday should be going to prison for a long time.

Responsibility for this act of domestic terrorism falls squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, especially those members of the Senate who refused, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to convict the impeached president when they had the duty to do so. Many of our fellow Americans would still be alive today if that had happened, including the five who lost their lives this week at the Capitol. This did not have to happen, and if you voted for the people who allowed it there’s blood on your hands as well.