When I think of Jan. 6, I think of Michael Fanone, the Metropolitan Police Department Officer who’s become somewhat famous for defending democracy. As he was brutally attacked at the Capitol, his plea for mercy was a simple one.
“I have kids,” he told the mob.
And he does. Three of his four kids are Chinese American. When he defended democracy, he was defending diversity. Kill him? He had to take care of his Asian American kids.
I think of them, as well as all members of Congress, including Chinese American Grace Meng and Vietnamese American Stephanie Murphy, forced to seek secure shelter on Jan. 6. And I think of New Jersey’s Korean American Andy Kim, famously depicted in the Wall Street Journal sweeping up the debris in the Capitol when the drama had all ended.
I also don’t forget about the Asian Americans among the rioters who entered the Capitol, like the Virginia man who held up a Filipino broom symbolic of another kind of sweep.
But it’s mostly Fanone’s three Chinese American girls I think about. They nearly lost their police officer father who was dragged, beaten, and tasered all while he was having a heart attack.
He lived, but other lives were lost that day.
And someone could have stopped it all. The former President of the United States.
THE VOYEUR, NOT THE LEADER
On prime time tonight, the Jan. 6. Select Committee will give us a picture of what President Trump was doing while the Capitol was under siege.
Trump was like the arsonist admiring his reflection in the fire he set. He told people to come to the Capitol and indeed, they came.
Witnesses, once again, high level White House aides and true-blue Republicans, will be shown testifying under oath that Trump was watching it all unfold on television for 187 minutes.
It will forever be a number associated with our democracy. 187 minutes, the threshold for almost losing what we gained in 1776.
Fans of antiquity will instantly turn to Nero, who is said to have fiddled as Rome burned on July 18, 64 CE.
It was Trump’s music, but the mob provided the lyrics, like the memorable “Hang Mike Pence.”
There was another chant in the crowd too, which Trump may have seen reported.
“Kill him with his own gun!” That was what people were saying to Officer Fanone as he was punched and kicked and dragged face-down some Capitol steps.
Fanone testified last year at this time to the committee and is not expected to be there tonight. But I will still be thinking about him.
He went to the Capitol late that day and when he arrived, he was urging his fellow officers to hold the line against the rioters. And then he was tased to the back of his head.
That’s when rioters added another chant to the Trump songbook “Annie Get Your Gun”–Get Fanone’s gun.
And then Fanone brought up his Asian American kids.
On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Mike Fanone woke up early, as usual, and went to the gym. He’d been living with his mom since a breakup left him with an apartment he couldn’t afford, working a second job at a security consultancy, saving for a down payment on a house for him and the girls—Piper, 9; Mei-Mei, 7; and Hensley, 5.
It’s from Molly Ball’s excellent piece last January on Michael Fanone in Time Magazine.
I remember seeing family pictures of Fanone and his family around the time of the riots. Fanone, now since divorced from his Chinese American wife, is still a loving father to his kids.
That his kids are multiracial is significant. Fanone’s kids are the democracy we’re all fighting for, the new America.
RACE RANTS AND APOLOGIES
You’ll recall the recent 2020 Census. The two or more races population, sometimes called multiracial, has gone from 9 million in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020, a 276 percent increase.
America is changing. Whites are still the largest group at 204.3 million, but that number has decreased 8.6 percent since 2010.
That fact has led to a growing resentment among on the Right. Note the audio rant by former Trump aide Garret Ziegler, who testified before the Jan. 6 committee earlier in the week.
Ziegler said he invoked his right to remain silent through the Fifth Amendment or executive privilege in most of his answers before the committee.
But he did not stay silent on social media. Online, Ziegler called the committee an “anti-white campaign, and if you can’t see that your eyes are freaking closed.”
Ziegler said he was the “least racist person that many of you have ever met. By the way, I have no bigotry. I just try to see the world for where it is.”
But this is our polarized America now. And while Ziegler chooses to dig in and insist he is not a racist, last week we saw some rioters repentant for what they’ve done. Stephen Ayres testified to the committee and even tried to apologize to Fanone.
Fanone was asked about the apology and told CNN (where he now works as an analyst) he was caught off guard and didn’t remember Ayres’ exact words. But he said apologies are deeply personal and private moments.
“Save the apologies,” Fanone said. “And that goes for anyone involved in Jan. 6.”
“The way [the apology] was carried out I found disingenuous and you know, in regards to January 6, I’m sorry, I am not anyone’s rest stop on the road to redemption.”
His phrasing stopped me cold.
In 2012, I interviewed by phone Vincent Chin’s killer, and Ronald Ebens apologized. I heard it. But it wasn’t up to me to either accept it or to judge him. I was an opinion journalist. If anything, I wanted to know why Ebens has continued to avoid the judgment against him that he owes to the Chin estate.
I wish I had Fanone’s line to respond to Ebens’ apology. “I am not anyone’s rest stop on the road to redemption.”
I imagine many more will want to apologize for their actions on Jan. 6, perhaps sooner than later.
But apparently not Ziegler, nor his former boss Trump.
Just this week, reports say Trump called Wisconsin officials seeking a way to undo its vote count. Trump is still unwilling to accept he lost the election. That is still more important to him than our country’s loss of democracy.
Don’t expect an apology from anyone for Jan. 6. But let’s hope the committee continues to do its job.
There’s no rest stop on the road to accountability.
NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.