The normalized coup: How violence became commonplace

Trigger Warnings: gun violence, sexual abuse

In the United States, we’ve become accustomed to a lot of everyday violence. While school shootings used to always make headlines, now that happens with increasing rarity. In a way, they’ve become a part of our norm. What’s seldom noticed is all of the other forms of violence (or discussions about them) that likewise have become uncomfortably commonplace. Leading the list, of course, should be sexual assault and the whole of rape culture, hate crimes against people of color and LGBT* people, the frequent abuse suffered by disabled people at the hands of their caretakers, and a whole litany of other patterns of violence that reveal a number of what are often called “systems of oppression”.

But what about the constant talk about a military coup?

It seems important to talk about precisely what sort of political violence has become a mainstay, because it’s a very specific brand. It’s a willingness to discuss violence as a means to overthrowing the government, which is overwhelmingly popular among Republicans. That interest in removing specifically President Obama from office before his current term expires was a theme to the government shutdown last fall, was present in other protests at that time, and has been a theme to the continuing protests and conservative activism. This has informed the confusing paranoia over a whole series of rightwing fears: Benghazi, the Affordable Care Act, Fast and Furious, any sort of gun control, and many others.

That sort of militant talk is now a staple on radio talk shows, a frequent topic on military message boards, and seems connected to Florida Republicans’ insistence that, “A person with a firearm is a citizen. A person without a firearm is a victim.” Against a backdrop of killings or conspiracies to kill police officers, IRS workers, and other government workers, this doesn’t seem to be a hyperbolic talking point, but an actual discussion about dismantling the existing government through violent means. There’s some coverage of each incident of that sort of political violence – a fatal attack on the IRS, a plot to kill as many police officers as possible, another plot that actually resulted in deaths, and yet more attempted killings. There’s even connections between the shooting of a US Congressional Representative and the same sort of conservative and libertarian grassroots anti-government extremism.

Of course, it’s easy to call this simply “anti-government” violence, but all too often the reasoning behind these attacks is ignored, or simplified to a paranoia of government power (with one woman who plotted to kidnap, torture, and kill police requesting that a TV be unplugged at one meeting to avoid government surveillance). It seems pertinent that there’s a pattern of sexual abuse and partner violence among sovereign citizens (who deny the validity of the existing government) and oath keepers (members of an unofficially military-affiliated group that at times advocates for insurrection).

The list of reasons for why government should be removed — or at least certain members of it — is narrowly focused on White women (namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), men of color (first and foremost President Obama, but also Attorney General Eric Holder), and women of color (most famously National Security Adviser Susan Rice). Given that those calling for resistance are overwhelmingly White men, this doesn’t seem to be an accident.

If you listen to rightwing radio, it honestly seems that many individuals in the political bloc are interested in a “taking their country back” from people who are not White, not men, or neither. The failure of many conservative White men to “restore our future” by means of the ballot box hasn’t made them question whether their politics are representative of most people’s political interests. Not only are there persistent conspiracy theories to fall back on about that, but majority rule was never a factor in the call for revolution. Much like in the coups throughout Latin America, the concerns of those calling for a coup are about protecting business interests and ensuring the continuation of different social hierarchies.

As broad coalitions against the Obama administration form because of disastrous policies, like metadata snooping and a failure to fully repair the economy, be cautious of your political bedfellows. Do they want the powerless ushered into power? Or do they just want people who don’t look like them pushed out?


One thought on “The normalized coup: How violence became commonplace

  1. This is appalling. History seems to be repeating itself, and violence reigns high. Who would think that the people in the 21st century would not look behind their shoulders and realise just how much progress has been made when it comes to carrying out the giving of basic human rights? It’s shocking to think that many people still consider whatever label they put on others, be it black, woman, LGBT, etc., to be the decisive factor when it comes to judging them. I’m pretty sure the last time I checked, these people (i.e. President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice) were to be judged on what they could give to society, not by superficial labels and the stigma attached to those labels.

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