I’m not sure
how many people standing outside American mythos can truly appreciate how devastating and soul crushing the events in
Washington on January 6th were.
For those of
us who have bought in, however, no matter where we were born or even where we
live, the desecration of both the American citadel and the illusion of order
numb. Shocked. Trying to sort it out. The key question seems to be, “How could
I believe I
am in a unique position to answer that question.
the last three years, I have been planning just such an attack on the U.S.
Capitol building. That includes how to get around the Capitol police, the
National Guard, how to enter the building, how to hold it, and even how to hold
its occupants as hostages.
because I am the author of a novel called “The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs,”
which has been serialized online since October and is still rolling out as we
Let’s be clear: this is a work of fiction. And as a work of fiction, and
narrative fiction at that, the book is built around a fairly simple premise: what
if a French Revolution came to modern day America, complete with Twitter, 24-hour cable
news, and whatever the ambitious psychopath can pick up at Dick’s Sporting Goods?
I put a lot of
what I thought was outlandish stuff in this book. Not just the capture of the U.S.
Capitol, but the takeover of statehouses across the country; racial protests;
riots against income inequality; media manipulation; guillotines; gallows; invoking
the 25th Amendment; Vice Presidents under threat; and even people
dressed as animals wandering around the sacred halls of Washington (hence the
wolves in the title). Needless to say, I have been spooked in recent months by certain
similarities to real events.
kidnapping of government officials I largely left out, because I already made a
movie about this. It’s called “American Hangman,” and it’s on Netflix right now.
This is another piece of fiction I thought kind of over-the-top until the
events in Michigan sadly proved me wrong.)
the catch: while the book is still unveiling itself, the truth is that I actually
started it in 2017 and finished it early in 2020.
leads me to some real concerns when I hear officials and elected representatives
in the last 48 hours, all aquiver, say things like, “Who could have known? Who
could have guessed this would happen?”
Well, I say...
ME! Apparently, I knew!
of course, raises some pretty big questions.
how did some guy sitting in Southern California with his feet up on the coffee table
figure out how to breach the Capitol where none of the people truly responsible
for the building even considered the idea? How did I figure out just how
important the Virginia National Guard would be – and just who would need to
trigger the request to federalize same – where no real official on January 6 had
the foggiest idea who to even call to get physical protection for Members of Congress?
And how did I alone recognize the importance of the 25th Amendment
in such a crisis?
there are only so many viable answers to these questions.
a genius. I alone saw with clarity what no one else could imagine.
maniacs who invaded the Capitol on January 6 are avid readers.
political leaders and law enforcement officials DID in fact know what fire they
were playing with; they just didn’t see the repercussions in practical terms.
enforcement was not clear about their role in defending the Capitol.
examining these options, I have to eschew the first one.
It really strikes
me as unlikely that a middle-aged man with four kids and a small orange cat – a
guy who spends more of his time going to the hardware store or trying to find
Jack Finney novels on Abebooks - has unique insight into the forces of disorder
beyond those available to the FBI and Homeland Security.
number two – that the forces of disorder were tremendously inspired by my fiction
– is also, sadly, unlikely. Firstly, while the book is gaining a solid
readership, it hasn’t even been traditionally published yet, and more importantly,
it’s unlikely that the green guy wearing antlers is spending a lot of
his time reading.
– that our political leaders never saw the practical repercussions of their own
actions – seems more likely, but even when you combine it with option four, the
bases still aren’t totally covered.
still left with the lingering question of how you breach a Capitol. I don’t
just mean the mechanics of how people smashed through windows and squirmed into
the Senate chamber, but how? Truly, how?
us back to fiction, and the definition of speculative fiction itself.
The great Margaret Atwood defines speculative fiction (and I’m paraphrasing here) as a
shout of “Watch out!” and “Be careful!” This definition is as solid as it gets.
Certainly, that was my intention in writing my book, as I imagine it’s the
intention of any author who sets out to lecture a waiting world on what seeds
it should or shouldn’t sow. But in order for the warning to work, the novelist has
to show not just the gruesomeness of what might happen, but the why.
this is a pretty important function in society. It’s the value of an Orwell, a
Huxley, a Philip K. Dick, or an Atwood. But that job shouldn’t rest
solely with writers.
Far from it.
The folks who should really be in charge of “Watch Out” and “Be Careful” are
the ones who are actually given the jobs of managing our society on a daily basis. Our elected representatives,
our law enforcement, and our judiciary. It is their duty to not just react but
anticipate, to be prepared, and to avert disaster borne of the natural, even
animal, propensities of most human beings. In short, manage the why as well as the mechanics.
In the case
of January 6, this view was turned upside down. The manner in which the beast
was able to run rampant through our citadel made it very clear that it was the
elected representatives, law enforcement, and judiciary who birthed the animal
in the first place; fed it, protected it, pet it, and finally let it loose.
Take it from someone who has been thinking about this for three years. You can’t just storm the
Capitol and take it over with ease unless the folks guarding the place have
some weird notion that you have the right to do so, or at the very least that
they shouldn’t interfere with your intentions; you can’t just stumble upon the private
offices of elected Members of Congress unless you’ve been told where to go; and
you can’t just take the dais of the U.S. Senate unless someone has decided not
to shoot you.
If you don’t
believe me, let’s look at the argument about race. I certainly agree that if all
the invaders had all been Black, they most certainly would have been shot. And
perhaps if they’d all been waving Soviet flags they’d also have been shot. But
there was something about the color of the invaders (white) and the flags (Confederate),
which made the people who were supposed to guard our Capitol step back and say,
“These guys are okay.”
something I didn’t get into my book, because I could never have imagined it. Nor
am I a fine enough poet to have dreamt up the image of Black janitors and custodians
having to clean up the mess of white people, including, yes, Confederate flags.
Their job is to return the nation’s Capitol to its pristine state, an
institution which has worked assiduously to deny them rights for more than 240
years. What poet could dream that up?)
No, what played
out on January 6 required more than the ability to just breach a building. This was about the breach of
something far greater, and the fault lies with beings far more powerful than a bunch
of dickheads wearing MAGA hats.
The fault lies
with the elected representatives of this country, on both sides of the aisle but
primarily the Republican side, and those who refuse to hold them to task. That’s
you and me. It also lies with a culture that allows something as ludicrous as
Fox News to sell its swill 24 hours a day for decades without any blowback from
the people. It also lies with an education system which refuses to instill any
basic knowledge of civics, social responsibility, or moral understanding. It
most certainly lies at the foot of every pulpit where the sheer madness of
Trump (and he is, most of us now agree, literally mad) is preached as part of Christian
truth, to the point where an army of uninformed cultists equate Trump not with
other Presidents, but with Christ. But most of all, the fault lies with a culture
of greed and self interest that allows people who are educated, informed, and
enlightened, to support and vote for such moral vomit because it’s good for the
Dow, their investments, their 401k’s, their business, the value of their property,
and their jobs in Congress.
These are the elements necessary to breach
the U.S. Capitol and desecrate the concept of America.
combine all them, it’s not a question of, “Who could this
happen?” It’s a question of, “How could this NOT happen?”
should not be the sole province of writers or filmmakers or poets to dream up
these scenarios, imagine the very worst, and show their genesis.
It is the
place of the political, economic, and judicial leaders of this hopelessly naïve
nation to look in the mirror and reckon with these truths. To realize that they
are the most naïve and absurd among us, and to understand that their childish antics and actions have real life consequences. They need to accept that they are responsible
for what happened on January 6, and that they should be the ones cleaning up
the mess, not the janitors. They should stop pointing fingers and say - every single
one of them - “Me. Me. I did this.”
did, whether directly or indirectly, by speaking out loud or through silence or obeisance. Some more than others.