For almost 20 years, the politics of New York City and this country have been shaped by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It is likely the events of Jan. 6, 2021 could shape us similarly.
Both dates represent dividing lines in the 21st century: the start of America’s global war on terror and the true start of America’s new war with its own worst elements.
Both events felt like shocks to the body politic, but were anticipated by certain analysts years in advance. Both days were composed of symbolic and actual violence layered together, broadcast to the world.
Like this pandemic, or global climate change, the chaos of the present follows years of ignored alarms.
We now recognize some of those alarms in our current struggle with extremism: places like Charlottesville or events like the plotted kidnapping of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer.
For 20 years the United States has fought the Global War on Terror. Hopefully those foolish days are almost at an end. And yet we need to focus on the homegrown, far-right-wing “domestic” terror threat that has plagued our country for decades.
It’s now clear that for decades, law enforcement has focused on monitoring, infiltrating, and containing the wrong groups of Americans. Black Lives Matter and other left-wing groups, including the loosely-organized brand of Antifa, are not threats to American democracy. What happened last week was.
9/11 ushered in an era where the actions of the police were nigh-uncriticizable and their budgets were free from threat of being cut. Rudy Giuliani claimed to be “America’s Mayor.” It’s clear those days are over.
Nowadays, we are suspicious of our police forces in our big cities, and we have evidence and reasoning to back up our concerns.
It is much, much harder to keep the events of 9/11 sacred this year, to hold Ground Zero as hallowed ground, when the United States loses more than a 9/11’s worth of people to coronavirus every day so far this winter.
It is harder now that we know what a liar and a bungler and a wannabe tyrant Rudolph W. L. Giuliani is.
So where do we go from here, with some old idols hopefully smashed for good? Where will Chuck Schumer lead the senate? Will Brooklyn’s first-ever Senate Majority Leader try to herd the Democrats in the direction of Hakeem Jeffries or AOC?
What does this mean going forward? To have a prayer against climate change and our other major woes, the president’s party must not lose any seats in the midterm elections. The natural pendulum of politics suggests this is an uphill task, that has only been accomplished once before this century: the election after 9/11.