Sat | Sep 18, 2021

Orville Taylor | The Capitol offensive

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2021 | 12:13 AM

Social facts always lead to other social facts. Thank God I didn’t place my tuition on a horse racing bet and spent it on a sociology degree, because the only thing that surprised me in last week’s attack on the US Capitol is the fact that, thankfully, only five individuals died; five persons too many. More disturbing is that one of the deceased was a police officer who was serving and protecting. From preliminary reports, at least 50 cops have also been injured, as thousands of rioters stormed the centre of Western democracy bent on preventing the stealing of the election by a ‘cheating’ de facto minority. And they believed this.

That the police chief resigned is of little comfort. Now, there is no question that the actions of the security forces, post facto the breaches of the perimeter, was actually the best decision and the one that saved hundreds of lives. I do not have estimates as to the number of armed ‘protesters’ that were in the crowd or how many of those who got inside the building had firearms. America has reputedly the best security forces in the hemisphere, and the elite division protecting the seat of government must be the best in the world.

With the intelligence capability that we on this rock can only dream of, the chief was either asleep or complicit. Either way, he fell down on the job, because the ominous signs were written in script, cursive and Braille along the social roadways for years. Any of our senior Jamaica Constabulary Force or Jamaica Defence Force women would have been so prepared that at best the protests would have ‘tushed’. From my passing familiarity with policing, he should face departmental charges of dereliction of duties.


Nevertheless, had the security team acted with the zero-tolerance approach to interlopers attacking the seat of government, then it would have been a massacre, and unlike those multiple reports of police officers killing American melanised civilians under questionable circumstances, it would have been perfectly justified. Whatever one calls it, the only thing about the incursion that seems dovelike was that it looked and sounded like a ‘coo’.

This pile-up of living bodies, scaling the walls as if they were either on a rock or smoking it, must have made the elected officials and public servants so nervous that they should be still shivering after their underwear changes. After all, just by looking at some of the footage, I am still as nervous as a high-school girl, sneaking to do a number two at school, while her friends speculate as to whose shoes they are seeing.

Yet, had the cops repelled the attacks with deadly force that they would have been more than justified in deploying, many more lives would be lost, including innocent police officers who did not side with the invaders. Beyond that, the massacre would have ignited another mini civil war, which, despite the official end in 1865, is really not over; and America knows this. After burying its head in the sand, America now has its comeuppance as its democracy was held ‘ostrich’. The reality check has to be finally cashed and we call a spade a shovel and not a misshapen hoe.


As to the accountability for the action of the hordes and the police personnel as well as those who clearly riled them up and led them to carry out an attack not only on American democracy but on world security, the processes of law must be followed. America has many statutes and an excellent cadre of investigators and attorneys who will likely lay a battery of charges which will stick like Teflon.

But that is not the real issue. Never mind the untruths which have come from the mouth of the demagogues. What is true is that many of the things which Donald Trump said and did are representative of almost half of American society. It might be shocking but a large number of those who stormed the Capitol believed that what they were doing was right and they were saving their country. The Islamic extremists, who commit violence against their own, are similarly convinced that their cause and actions are just.

Add that to the well-ingrained American principle of ‘regime change’ when a ‘minority’ (foreign) government is unlawfully holding power and any sociologist would have bet money on a prediction of last week and won. Americans are humans, just like the rest of the world, and must be understood using the sociological imagination,

A wonderful country, America is still a work in progress. Despite granting suffrage to women, more than 100 years ago, it has never elected a female president and has killed or attempted to assassinate more heads of government than any other modern democracy.

As it was in 1863, so it is still. There is less ‘United’ in the States of America than we acknowledge and the task of Joe Biden and his Republican counterparts must be to Make a Great America (MAGA). In Jamaica we say, ‘where it maga; it bruck.’

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to and