I admit, I didn’t have “a riot in the Capitol” on my list of ways to start the year, nor everything that’s followed, but that may be because I wasn’t thinking big enough.
Last week’s insanity in Washington DC was something I couldn’t stop following on social media as it was unfolding, ruining the plans I had for the day. I watched (and retweeted, and signal boosted) not just in quiet, stunned shock at the surreality of the moment — that it was happening, that the house was being invaded, looted, held hostage at gunpoint, all of which felt like a shitty movie — but also because I felt a strange compulsion to do so, as if it were my responsibility to pay attention as history was unfolding.
I had no idea where things would end up, as I kept checking everything from Twitter to news sources to YouTube; I couldn’t really wrap my head around what was even happening in the first place. In the back of my mind, I was sure the rioters wouldn’t “win,” whatever that looked like — push Congress into announcing a second Trump term? — but I didn’t even trust that impulse, because I’d never really imagined things would reach the point they had by that point.
The idea that the start of any new year is really the dying embers of the old one has rarely felt so true as they did on Wednesday. The storming of the Capitol was undoubtedly a 2020 move, folding in countless threads from last year — Trump, white supremacy, domestic terrorists, the complicity and ineptitude of police, COVID superspreader events, the fucking election — in one, hopefully final, concoction to underscore how tied together they all were, all along. A season finale move, if you want to view it through the prism of entertainment, as the President surely did.
Looking at it now, I’m still uncertain if it was the end of something, like a fever finally breaking, or the start of something new. As a way of announcing itself, though, 2021 had a hell of a first week. Where do we go from here?