Last month I diverted from my usual topics and wrote about Korean comfort food. Within hours of it being posted, the United States Capitol complex a mile from my couch was breached by throngs of right-wing terrorists, at the explicit direction of the former president, and egged on by prominent Republican Members of Congress and a cornucopia of conspiracy theories circulating on the internet and certain media outlets. The terrorists’ goal was to overthrow a democratic election, install their god-king as a pseudo-dictator, and kidnap or kill some Democrats in the process (a goal seemingly shared by elected Republicans, who laughed at Democrats offering them masks while sheltering together). So here we are again.
Part of me wanted to write about the end of even a veneer of seriousness in the Republican Party, given their majority support for conspiracy theorist Members of Congress who think Sandy Hook and Parkland were false flags and who publicly support executing the Speaker of the House. It’s hard to think about anything else when I work all day in federal policy and then walk my dog past armored Humvees and armed soldiers blocking off large swaths of downtown DC thanks to right-wing terrorism. But writers like Adam Serwer and Jamelle Bouie regularly tackle that issue better than I can.
I had my first panic attack in quite a while one month ago. I don’t have them often, but it turns out having my city overrun by emboldened armed lunatics spoiling for a fight did the trick. So I can’t imagine what it was like for the people in the Capitol building and surrounding Congressional office buildings—Members of Congress, their staffs, cleaning crews, journalists, cafeteria workers, everyone—who were told that rioters had breached the complex and were rapidly evacuated. I followed the live-tweets as people inside panicked. I saw the pictures and videos of hordes of red-hat-wearing, flag-draped goons breaking windows and screaming (unmasked) at cops. But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s story, shared on her Instagram Live this past Monday, is what really hammered home for me how terrifying it must have been.
AOC is quite possibly the most-threatened Member of Congress. She’s talked before about how she has mornings where the first thing she has to do is review photos sent by law enforcement of men who want to kill her. As a perpetually-online person, I can attest that the torrent of vitriol spewed in her direction is vile and unceasing. She has to deal with this, of course, because she’s a smart, outspoken, attractive woman of color who’s better at politics than the (mostly) white men who are threatened by her.
So when AOC talked for 90 minutes about hiding in her office bathroom, about the man who walked into her office banging on doors and yelling her name (a Capitol Police officer who failed to identify himself, it turns out), about searching staffers’ desks for a change of clothes to blend in, about genuinely fearing for her life from a mob of people who regularly express their desire for her death, and about placing all that in the context of also being a sexual assault survivor—that put the terrorism in a new frame of reference. Her willingness and vulnerability in sharing her compounded traumas made the insurrection personal.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for Republicans and Fox News to call AOC a liar, make fun of her for crying, accuse her of “emotional manipulation,” and officially make the pivot to downplaying the attempted coup that came within seconds of assassinating the Vice President of their own party. This attempted discrediting was entirely predictable, given Republicans’ aversion to facts, its penchant for sexual abusers, and the conservative movement’s intentional twisting of “Believe Women,” which makes it no less despicable.
I don’t know what my point is here. Don’t do terrorism? Vote for Democrats? Believe women? Don’t get your news from cable or Facebook? Eat dak galbi? Burn the GOP down? Speak out against dangerous conspiracies? All of that, I guess. I don’t know. I’m just tired.