Those two words hit me in a multitude of ways. After hours of watching the chaos unfold in the Capitol building that day, knowing that AOC, Cori Bush, and other people we had helped elect to Congress were directly in danger, seeing those words offered an immediate and overwhelming sense of relief.
But it hit me in another, very personal, and unexpected way. I knew when she wrote “I’m okay,” that she was not actually okay. Physically unharmed, perhaps. But not okay. I knew it because I had been in the same position once myself, and that tweet instantly transported me back in time nearly 9 years earlier.
It was September 16, 2012. I was in Afghanistan. We were on lockdown because a suicide bomber was on base and they were searching for them. I sat in my bunk with nothing but 2 inches of plywood separating me from the outside world, holding my breath and wondering if I would live through the night.
I texted this to my husband of just under two years:
But I wasn’t. I was very far from okay.
It’s very easy to forget that everyone inside the Capitol building that day – whether they were congressional staffers and maintenance workers, or internationally-recognized political icons – was a human being going through an indescribably traumatic experience. A siege.
On January 6th I wasn’t thinking of AOC, the international icon. I was thinking of Alexandria, the kind, compassionate candidate who worked with me over Slack to tinker with her campaign lit copy before we launched her campaign for Congress in May 2017. I was picturing a woman hiding from violent people in her place of work, and I wanted to know she and the others were safe.
So when she tweeted “I’m okay,” I instantly knew how bad it had been. I recognized the stilted cadence of having to communicate to people who are worried for your safety that you are, for the moment, physically unharmed…but that does not mean you are okay.
For the last year, we have struggled to stitch together a complete understanding of what happened on January 6th.
Even as we watched events unfold in real-time, as we soaked up every source of information available, as we looked at photos and watched videos, listened to the testimony of people who were there, living it, it’s difficult to fully comprehend.
Some were immediately dismissive. “These are just Trump supporters being Trump supporters.” Others questioned the validity of the experiences of people who were there, accusing them of exaggerating their fear or even lying about where they were.
That kind of vicious gaslighting is bad enough coming from disinformation agents of the far-right – but these dismissive attitudes were coming from supposed allies as well.
Even as we continue to piece together the facts one year later, there are a few things I know from that day.
I knew this mob was violent. I knew some of them had an explicit desire to harm the people our organization put in that building. And I knew they had the capability to carry it out.
This was not, as Trump and his enablers have tried to describe it, “a peaceful protest.” In fact, it was much more than a riot.
What is the right word to describe the events of January 6, 2021? Insurrection? Sedition? An attempted coup?
January 6th was the most urgent political moment of my lifetime, and it demanded an urgent, clear response like the one Cori Bush issued mere days after the insurrection.
Instead Democrats dragged their feet for six months before finally forming the January 6th Commission. That committee’s work, while crucial, has been slow and plodding in no small part because Republicans have predictably obstructed the process.
Because of this commission we know there are sitting members of Congress who actively participated in the planning of this insurrection.
We know that then-President Trump’s team had a plan – on PowerPoint – to initiate a national emergency and potentially engage the military. A plan they intended to brief to sympathetic members of Congress.
The answers are coming slow. Too slow. And every day that we don’t have all the facts in hand is a day the seditionists continue to rewrite history in real time.
Immediately after the January 6 insurrection, newly-elected Congresswoman Cori Bush – BNC’s first ever candidate – introduced her first piece of legislation: H.R. 25, a resolution to investigate and expel members of Congress who sought to overthrow the legitimate election of Joe Biden.
There was a time when seditionists were rapidly expelled from Congress. In March of 1861, following the contentious election of Abraham Lincoln that eventually led to the Southern states seceding and launching a civil war, 14 members of Congress were expelled for expressing support for the Confederacy.
Yet one year later we are still waiting for these members to be held accountable. Meanwhile these seditionists, who violated the most basic tenets of their oath of office, continue to write laws that govern all of our lives and spread the Big Lie.
And state legislatures across the country, controlled by Republicans, are passing aggressive new voter suppression laws while the Democratically-controlled Senate dithers about on passing voting rights – all while clinging to the filibuster, a relic of the last civil war that is explicitly designed to subvert democracy.
And recently several retired generals came forward with dire warnings about a potentially divided military that could guarantee Insurrection 2.0 is not another attempted coup, but a successful one.
I take that warning seriously. Four years after that long night I spent holding my breath in my bunk, there was another attempt on the same base. And that one succeeded, claiming the lives of four Americans – one of them my former boss.
The insurrection of January 6, 2021 was an emergency – and it remains one today. America is not okay. We need leaders who understand the (multiple) crises we face and move with urgency to solve them.
Do not let another year, another month, or another DAY pass without real accountability.
Today Cori is reissuing her clarion call to action, and it’s time we hold these seditionists accountable. Join us in the call to investigate and expel the members of Congress who incited this insurrection.
In 2022 we have an opportunity to substantially grow the ranks of bold, progressive, working class leaders like Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC.
Help us elect people who lead with moral clarity; who recognize a crisis and respond with urgency. Help us elect a Brand New Congress.