This Is Democracy: Welcome to the Real World, America (OPINION)

Jan 8, 2021
3:39 PM

Tear gas outside the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Photo by Tyler Merbler/CC BY 2.0)

LOS ANGELES — There is much to be said about what happened Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Protestors turned rioters, turned mob revolt. We all saw the rise of a new seditionist movement, historic no doubt. Almost immediately, many were quick to characterize these events with everything from a national embarrassment, a disgrace, an assault to democracy and my favorite, “a stain on American democracy” as described by one legislator.

I don’t disagree with such characterizations but I do take issue with how some of this is being contextualized, and especially by those in government.

To those who need to hear this, welcome to the real world, America.

Perhaps a reminder for some and news to others, but this is what democracy looks like. Not just American democracy but global democracy. This is the other face of democracy, the one that allows hate and intolerance to literally grow from within the very institutions we feel are most representative of our Constitution and principles as a nation. For far too long we’ve paraded ourselves here and abroad as a people, residents, citizens of the great America, land of this and land of that all the while for nearly 250 years we’ve stolen, enslaved, subjugated, exploited and oppressed our way to said status and did so at the expense of others as the rich get richer and the poor get a whole lot poorer.

From Latin America to African nations and Eastern Europe, acts of insurrection happen regularly and do so around the world and have for millennia. News flash: we are not exempt and or immune from it. We were founded on the principles of treason and acts of insurrection. Political coups, authoritarianism and dictatorships have not always come from the outside. American arrogance and our global political dominance is what regularly prevent us from recognizing it and speaks to our complete and total ignorance if not complicity in fomenting seeds of racism and destruction here and abroad.

What you saw Wednesday was planted a long, long time ago and is now being harvested by Trump and his band of both sane and unintelligent, conspiracy-driven simpletons turned separatist or more appropriately and as they would say, “sheeple.” This is the other side of democracy and we should all recognize it not as a stain or dismiss it as “otherness,” but as who we are both symbolically and literally. After all, half the voting nation did support the unstable and lunatic Trump. What you saw Wednesday was what we have long pointed at in other countries. Nations whose actions and political operatives we moralized by our leaders, criticized their lack of transparency and finger pointed at their infantile political theatrics while stigmatizing them and by extension the country and the people as a whole.

What you saw Wedensday was American Democratic Exceptionalism front and center. Had it been people of color, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT. They would have been executed on the spot, and those who survived would have been persecuted, corralled, assaulted, arrested, and incarcerated. How dare you express “shock and embarrassment” at what happening at the Capitol. The perception of American democracy is nothing more than that, a perception that now, it too will sleep in a bed of roses filled with thorns.

It is time we embrace our realities and stop acting as is this is something that “doesn’t happen in America.” The fight for an equitable and accessible democracy must be treated as a form of modern-day trench warfare. Today, millions will settle down with an uneasiness, a fear and insecurity that millions more have felt for hundreds of years. The difference is the insurrection is being televised, tweeted, Instagrammed, Tik Tok’d to our homes and mobile devices and coming from the very doorsteps of the American government, including and especially the White House. That is why we too must organize and continue the work.

This is not just an assault on our democracy, it’s an assault on us all. A nation, a people, an assault on generations who have built this country, and we must prepare and when necessary fight back because this is neither the first or the last we’ll see of this.


Armando Gudiño is a political strategist and policy analyst based in Los Angeles.