Abigail Leibowitz | Special to WJW
As the Jan. 6 hearings capture our attention, let’s ask ourselves: What compels such a large crowd of citizens to adopt a mob mentality and engage in radical, violent actions?
Caroline Edwards, a law enforcement officer caught in the line of attack, testified at the hearing: “I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I’d seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up […] I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood.”
How could thousands of people willingly participate in what can rightly be called acts of domestic terrorism? Indeed, the vast majority of the roughly 650 people federally charged in the riot were not part of far-right groups or premeditated conspiracies to attack the Capitol. Rather, this group comprises everyday Americans that include community leaders, veterans, small-business owners and teachers. While many were motivated by the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen, we need to dig deeper to understand how so many could be transformed from peaceful citizens into domestic terrorists.
It seems to me that the dangerous, creeping epidemic of white supremacy and xenophobia paved the way for the Jan. 6 insurrection. For many years, GOP leaders have focused their attention on demonizing immigrants and refugees, stirring a mythical fear of the “other,” or the “non-White.” Donald Trump himself started his campaign for presidency by scapegoating immigrants, saying that Mexican immigrants “have lots of problems. …They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.”
During his presidency, Republican leaders influenced thousands of their supporters by constantly referring to immigrants and refugees as threats that must be dealt with. And after the Charlottesville, Va., “Unite the Right” violent rally in which white supremacists killed Heather Heyer, Trump emboldened them by explaining that “there are good people on both sides.”
It is therefore crucially important to counter this utterly false and dangerous narrative through welcoming foreigners instead of ostracizing and ignoring them.
The main narrative of the biblical Book of Ruth is welcoming the foreigner. Ruth, a Moabite woman, becomes a foreigner in the land of Judah, and the question is how will she be treated. She doesn’t know the formal or informal community structures, has extremely limited access to resources and is treated as an outsider by those around her. Ruth goes out to gather the grain that is left over in the field. A turning point occurs when Boaz, the rich owner of the field, offers Ruth sustenance and shelter. Later in the story, he offers her a “pathway to citizenship” by proposing and eventually marrying her.
Refugee resettlement and full integration of immigrants should be our guiding light. On June 15, I attended a rally at the Capitol in honor of the 10-year anniversary of DACA, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States. I heard teachers, university students, social workers and many more recount their hardships under DACA. With restrictions on traveling abroad, participating fully in elections and campaigns, receiving financial aid and scholarships for college, all DACA recipients face challenges preventing full integration
Coming into office, President Joe Biden promised a pathway to citizenship for all DACA recipients and to work toward obtaining basic human rights for the 11 million undocumented people in this country without fear of deportation. And yet, the Build Back Better legislation meant to solve this crisis did not pass, and Congress has repeatedly stalled on taking action.
As we fight against the rise of fascism and white supremacy exhibited so unashamedly by the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, we must broaden our response beyond congressional committees and public hearings. The best antidote is applying the lessons of the Book of Ruth — welcoming and fully integrating immigrants and refugees.
Abigail Leibowitz is a rising freshman at Princeton University from Silver Spring. A graduate of Northwood High School, she is founder of student advocacy group F.A.I.R (Instagram- @students.fair).
No Abigail, the actions of a few hundred people (not thousands) at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 cannot accurately be called acts of domestic terrorism. Indeed, most of the people you speak of were only charged with trespassing on government grounds which is not an act of domestic terrorism.
Without diminishing the testimony of Caroline Edwards, it is my considered opinion that “the Jan. 6 hearings” are part of an extraordinarily undemocratic political show trial foisted on the American public by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a malicious attempt to denigrate and silence former president Donald Trump and most other Republicans, as well as politically conservative Americans who have the constitutional right to peacefully petition/protest for a redress of grievances. My proof: (A) All members of the Jan. 6 Select Committee were personally selected by Nancy Pelosi; (B) No accused party has been given the opportunity to present contrary evidence or testimony at the hearings; and (C) No evidence or testimony has been allowed to establish that President Trump did in fact authorize a call up of 20,000 National Guard troops in the event they were needed to quell any disturbances, and that Nancy Pelosi, as House Speaker, refused to call in any of those authorized troops when things started getting out of hand— telling facts that have been widely reported in conservative news outlets but, so far, not considered by the committee.
Also Abigail, your theory that an “epidemic of white supremacy and xenophobia paved the way for” the Jan. 6 disturbances apparently is based on left-wing propaganda disseminated by the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic Party and other radical groups. I hope you will come to understand that these far left radicals have broadened the original meaning of white supremacist through the distorted prism of Critical Race Theory to include anyone who is a member of the so-called “privileged” White race — an irrational and racist concept to be sure.
Similarly, your use of the term “xenophobia” is totally inappropriate since you apparently see no distinction between an immigrant who is legally permitted into our country and a person who violates our immigration laws by trespassing over our borders. In other words, prosecution of trespassers for violating our duly-constituted laws is not xenophobia. Rather, it is a matter of common sense.
In conclusion Abigail, I note that you are the founder of a student advocacy group called F.A.I.R. I have no problem with civil discourse or political advocacy, whether on the right or the left. I do note, however, that there is a national advocacy group called FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) whose policies and mission appear to directly contradict your own. So you may have an intellectual property conflict with that group that you may want to resolve.