The masked man in the Capitol Rotunda wore an American flag cape and waved a Filipino broom. Known as a “boi-boi” or a “Walis Tambo,” the handmade tool made for sweeping was a tell-tale sign on Jan. 6.
Asian Americans were not exactly wallflowers at this party.
For Kene Brian Lazo of Norfolk, Virginia, holding up the broom was a source of pride as he wrote on Facebook about how he would “be the only 1 (sic) with a boi boi representing Asians.”
Uh, except no one voted for Lazo to represent us.
But for Lazo, Jan. 6 at the Capitol was his social media moment, as he selfied his image for all the world to see. He wore his heart on a Capt. America-like shield that bore the words, “Extremist groups=coup,” “mail-in fraud=coup,” and “pandemic hoax=coup.” He was masked and virus conscious. He saw himself as a “Coup Flu Fighter.”
Hunted down by the FBI and arrested last May, Lazo was charged with four federal crimes connected to disorderly and disruptive conduct, trespass, and demonstrating in a Capitol building.
Lazo has pleaded not guilty and is free while he awaits his day in court. Like many of the more than 700 arrests that day, he’s been tagged for relatively minor crimes. Only about 275 have been charged with the heavy political charge of obstructing Congress’ attempt to certify the election. Another 225 have been charged with attacking or interfering with police.
The minnows have been rounded up. There are still others yet to be caught in the balance of an estimated 2,500 people who were at the Capitol.
And then there are the big fish. The ones too smart to be there.
A year after Jan. 6 burst like democracy’s pimple, I’m not worried about the folks like Lazo, though I think to call him an “insurrectionist” is a waste of syllables.
The media want to call the perps “insurrectionists,” but I prefer to call them what they are: Lawless, unprincipled rioters. Right-wing political looters. Deluded Trump supporters. Acolytes of an authoritarian.
In my book, insurrectionists take down authoritarians like Trump in the name of democracy.
Insurrectionists are serious people, not armed lunatics motivated by selfies and lured by mayhem and the sound of broken glass.
Insurrectionists are ready to lead, not steal souvenirs off Pelosi’s desk.
“Insurrectionists” may be the legal term for people intent on revolt against the established government, in this case our democracy.
In that sense, the Jan. 6 rioters were, at the very least, part of an anti-democracy movement.
But I prefer to leave the term “Insurrectionist” for the history most people don’t even know. Leave the word to describe the Filipinos, who after the Spanish American war stood up to the American imperialists and established a new Philippine republic, said to be the first democracy in Asia. It was so significant the revolt became the Philippine American War.
By that standard, the Jan. 6th insurrectionists couldn’t carry a Filipino insurrectionist’s jock strap.
REPUBLICANS MUST TESTIFY
If all those subpoenaed by the bipartisan committee in Congress investigating the matter comply, we might yet uncover the truth behind that day.
Maybe they’ll find that instead of a riot, what happened on January 6,, 2021 was essentially a “coup” led by forces loyal to an ex-president who lost the election in November 2020.
But it wasn’t the likes of Lazo who were in charge. He was just trespassing.
Already Peter Navarro, a former Trump aide, has been talking publicly about a group of more than 100 members of Congress ready to decertify the election in key states, and then sending it back to the House of Representatives for the real steal.
He referred to it like a football play, a power “sweep.” And not with a Filipino broom.
Let Navarro say it all under oath. And let all the other Republicans and former Trump staffers honor the subpoenas they’ve been served. And yes, it may be time to bring in the former president too. Let them all testify and be questioned by the committee.
Until that happens, they only extend the agony of the day when an unruly mob was set off by the former president who sat back and let it happen.
We all saw the video.
And yet, the mob couldn’t stop the votes from being certified and the election made official. There’s your Star-Spangled Banner moment. There was a gallows for Pence outside. But the flag still waved.
Democracy survived on January 6. But for how much longer? Republicans seem intent on running out the clock, as if there were some clock on justice.
There isn’t. But the American people can’t wait. After two years of Covid and four years of Trump, people can’t tell one from the other. And now, it seems they just want things to end. Our Democracy? Republicans seem to be counting on that.
WORRY ABOUT THE PEOPLE NOT THERE, LIKE PENN LAW’S AMY WAX
A year after the inciting moment of our times, I’m not worried about Lazo, or even the Proud Boys.
I’m worried about all the ones who have yet to be caught, like the guy who planted the bombs on Jan. 5 at both the Republican and Democratic National Committees.
And I’m worried about the truly smart ones, who can supply all the dumb ones who were there the hate rhetoric they need.
Penn Law’s Amy Wax is the professor who went on a conservative podcast recently to say there’s a problem with immigration, specifically Asian immigration.
“It’s just harder to assimilate those people or to have confidence that our way of life will continue if we bring a lot of people in who are not familiar with it. These are not original ideas on the right,” Wax said on the podcast.
She’s not kidding. Wax is essentially advocating bringing back the Chinese Exclusion Act. Toned down for modern sensibilities, of course.
“[We] have to distinguish mass-immigration, which we’re getting from the Hispanics, south of the border, which I think poses different questions and challenges from the Asian elites that we’re getting,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that the influx of Asian elites is unproblematic. I actually think it’s problematic. …I think it’s because there’s this…danger of the dominance of an Asian elite in this country, and what does that mean? What is that going to mean to change the culture?”
More Panda Express franchises?
Later in a response to a critic, Wax explained herself more bluntly. She questioned why the majority of Asians were Democrats.
“As long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration,” she added.
Now there’s a double play. Wax singlehandedly was calling for our exclusion as well as neutering the model minority myth. Wax doesn’t want any of us. Not even the elites.
If you ask the Trump base about demographics, what raises their dander most is the current population trend of whites dwindling in number and becoming just another minority in places like California and Texas.
They really don’t want any of us. But they can’t articulate it like Wax, who only waxes hate.
I wonder if she saw Lazo and his broom on Jan. 6?
HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU SEE THOSE JAN.6 VIDEOS?
To remember the biggest threat to our democracy in our lifetime, it’s hard to watch the videos over and over. I had to revisit my words the week of Jan. 6, 2020:
In the aftermath of last Wednesday’s insurrection, I’ve had the luxury of nursing a stunned silence. Perhaps to pray. Was I seeing this correctly—Trump declaring war on Congress? That’s what it seemed like. It leaves us with this dilemma: Can we allow the president to stay in office after he urged his seditious supporters to riot?
That’s how I felt as I watched the Capitol being ransacked and pillaged, not by an enemy force, but by our fellow Americans.
There was a sinking feeling in my heart for our country and our government.
We must demand accountability.
But here we are one year later.
Accountability on hold. More than 830,000 Americans dead of Covid. Our democracy just hanging on.
Trump did get impeached a second time. But no one seems to remember that. And not enough people seem to be bothered by the videos to embrace the truth.
I still can’t watch video clips of Jan. 6 and not feel violated.
To see 2,500 people incited by Donald Trump behaving badly, busting into the nation’s Capitol in a bullying attempt to decertify all the votes from Nov. 2020’s free and fair election that Joe Biden won, never fails to leave me in a stunned state of disbelief. My country ’tis of thee?
The violence had members of Congress running for their lives as the crowd roared both inside and out. Rep. Grace Meng cried and feared for her life. Remember, five people died. More than 135 police were injured.
And despite all that, our democracy hung on. The election was certified.
I saw it. You saw it. We all saw it happen.
Yet a year later, the gaslight hasn’t dimmed. Republicans insist it’s burning brighter than ever. Videos? What videos? And the lies. Trump won. (He didn’t). The election was stolen. (It wasn’t).
And that is what’s really frightening a year later. People seem to have given up on the truth and the taste of it. They’re resigned to believe the lie. Or just to live with it. They’re so beaten down and confused about the truth that it’s like they’re willing to live with a false diagnosis of cancer and simply accept what is.
We just can’t seem to get the consensus we need to be the America we used to know.
This is not the time for a mere majority. After what happened on Jan. 6, we pretty much need unanimity.
Anything less dishonors, maybe even ends, our democracy.
Asian Americans, all Americans, must rally now.