Reactionary Politics and U.S. Veterans

Even in an increasingly digital age where much is recorded, there are few events which will undoubtedly transcend time and forever remain in our collective consciousness as U.S. citizens. One such event was the raid of the U.S. Capitol building which occurred on January 6th, 2021. This website conceptualizes the events of January 6th, 2021, within the framework of the relationship between reactionary politics and veterans. Furthermore, this website uncovers the importance and consequences of veteran political activity, and what compels these individuals to take such action. I will briefly explore the history of such activity in the United States and complete our understanding of why these veterans take such a dramatic step.

An individual outside the Capitol building on January 6th, in the dress uniform of a U.S. Army Sergeant. Blink O’fanaye via Wikimedia

Reactionary Politics

I define “reactionary politics” as the individual or joint political expression of grievance through radical violence. Vital to my project is the acknowledgement that no two historical events are alike; they are shaped by the times and circumstances in which they exist. However, from historical events arise common themes which are critical toward understanding the U.S. veteran experience as it pertains to reactionary politics.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787.

A statue of Thomas Jefferson at his home in Monticello. Image taken from Pixabay.

Patriots or Tyrants?

How do we define the individuals who participated in the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6th? Any definition is inherently political, but how we conceptualize these individuals is an indispensable part of our collective understanding of this monumental event in U.S. History. Definitions such as “traitors,” “patriots,” and “protestors” characterizes these individuals too vaguely.

From a perspective grounded in personal belief, these definitions may well fit the bill. However, by examining the material outcome on the grounds of the Capitol building that day, I believe it is more apt to define these individuals as “rioters.” What we do know from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into that day, is that many of these individuals “committed various other alleged criminal violations, such as destruction of property, assaulting law enforcement personnel, targeting members of the media for assault, and other unlawful conduct, on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.” The illegal activity that has resulted in hundreds of cases against these individuals from the FBI leads me to believe that defining them as “rioters” is most suitable.

Above all else, these polarized definitions set up a distinction between framing the rioters as “patriots who believed they were defending democracy,” or as “traitors attempting to enforce a tyranny of an electoral and popular minority (according to 2020 election results).” Whether these individuals, their supporters, or their critics prefer a more polarized definition such as “patriots” or “traitors” is less important; the fact remains that illegal activity was widespread in and around the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th, 2021.

The castle will be stormed. The question is what then?

Larry R. Brock via Facebook post on January 1, 2021.

The violence at the Capitol resulted in many serious injuries, as seen here with this bloodied individual. One veteran would die by gunshot wound during the riot itself. Blink O’fanaye via Wikimedia Commons.