I’ve been noticing this old concept creeping back into our unmoored public life, if ever so gingerly. The Proud Boys trials were a watershed in restoring some semblance of accountability.
On trial was this revisionism that Jan. 6 was just another protest, or as the GOP has called it, “legitimate political discourse.” But jury after jury, and now the judges too, have been clear-eyed about what it really was: a movement to use lies, fraud and force to stop the wheels of democracy.
Nordean and his pals were the muscle part of it. The ringleader got sentenced to 18 years in prison, shy of what federal prosecutors requested (27 years) but many times what Nordean thought he deserved (less than two years).
It’s important to add: This judge was appointed by Donald Trump.
For his part, Nordean was stoic but previously had lamented that Trump “left us on the battlefield, bloody and alone.”
The entire GOP is going to be left bloody and alone if it doesn’t accept some responsibility for this era and move on from Trump. But I also wonder about my own liberal tribe, and its sometimes tenuous relationship to this concept of accountability.
Can we push for, and then celebrate, righteous prosecutions and prison terms for right-wingers, when at the same time we refuse to hold people accountable for myriad crimes committed in our own cities? Recently when I wrote how Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood is being destroyed by official neglect, some police officers and others in the criminal justice system said they feel there’s an implicit message to look the other way.
“The stuff you’re talking about in Little Saigon, the shoplifting, stolen property, theft, burglary, vandalism … the jail tends not to book for these, so there’s no incentive to investigate them in the first place,” one Seattle officer wrote.
I’m not saying that vandalizing a storefront is anywhere near as grave as storming the Capitol. Nor am I saying the justice system is unbiased or should be trusted uncritically; we’ve all watched it abuse people over the years.
But the answers can’t be to water down or completely abandon the principle of accountability. Or to disable the justice system. You can’t push for that and simultaneously cheer the long incarceration of some Proud Boys, in any case. That’s like the hypocrisy of the supposedly “law-and-order” Republicans, who are now calling for defunding the FBI.
One of the Proud Boys’ mottos, that they printed on T-shirts and chanted during the Capitol riot, was, ironically “(bleep) around, find out.” Of course they were the ones doing the bleeping around. And would be the last to realize they would be the ones finding out. To the tune of about 18 years.
It’s clarifying, this finding out. Some lever for getting back on track has been desperately needed in a nation going wide off the rails.
And if we’re honest, Seattle could stand to bring a bit of finding out back into our civic system as well.