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Opinion | MLK Day is split in Alabama. That explains a lot about the insurrection

“A day split between honoring MLK’s sacrifice and fight for equality, and Robert E. Lee, a murderous traitor and slaveowner.”

Widely shared images of a white man carrying a Confederate flag across the floor of the U.S. Capitol during the deadly Capitol insurrection. VIA TWITTER

Currently, a large area surrounding the U.S. Capitol Building has been blocked off and secured. Law enforcement and military officials have also cleared out and closed several underground parking garages in the area. All sightlines with a view of next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden have been blocked. National Guard troops are currently sleeping in the Capitol Building, and the FBI is now conducting background checks on all of those troops to ensure none of them have been radicalized. 

All of this is not in response to a foreign terrorist threat, or to a foreign nation’s rumored attacks. It is to defend the American president from American terrorists. 

And it is disgusting. 

Let me be clear: I do not care that you dislike Biden or Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. I can almost guarantee you that you don’t dislike them more than I disliked President Donald Trump and his hateful, shame-filled, bar-lowering, cess pool-swimming presidency. 

But I never wanted to kill him. Or to storm congress looking for hostages. Or to load napalm and guns in my pickup and drive up to D.C. to “take America back.” 

Since last week’s insurrection attempt at the Capitol, in which American terrorists beat and killed police officers, destroyed property and went in search of congressmen to kidnap and a vice president to hang, the FBI has now arrested more than 100 people, including at least three men from Alabama. 

Those three included the napalm-toting Lonnie Coffman, who also had a list of good guys and bad guys written on a Motel 6 folder; Will Watson, the bearded son of a preacher who was photographed standing in the Capitol next to the “QAnon Shaman;” and Joshua Black, who uploaded two videos to YouTube explaining that MAGAs stormed the Capitol to spread the blood of Jesus.

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That Alabama is well-represented in such an embarrassing display of misplaced anger and white people insecurity should not be a surprise. Those two emotions — misplaced anger and irrational white people insecurity — have caused more pain and suffering in this state than we can measure. 

And what happened at the Capitol a week and a half ago was the direct result of just that sort of fear and anger, and the result of politicians and certain media outlets pushing both through lies and distortions. 

Led by the president, Republican lawmakers spent weeks lying to their constituents about election fraud. Telling them that the election had been stolen, that Democrats were undermining the country, that it was time to fight, that it was time, in the words of Rep. Mo Brooks, to “kick ass.”

The right-wing media and websites carried and amplified these messages and calls to action. They too helped stoke the anger. 

It’s all very familiar to people in Alabama. Driven by the lies of right-wing politicians and their right-wing media mouthpieces, Alabama has been handicapped its entire existence by exactly the sort of fear and anger that were on display in D.C. 

To the point that even today, on a day set aside nationally to celebrate the life and work of a nonviolent preacher who spent his life fighting for equality, Alabama will split that day by honoring a traitorous slave owner. 

The reason why isn’t hard to discern. Because pushing racial division and fears of other races helps the right-wing politicians manipulate the voting poor. 

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Doubt it? Alabama doesn’t have to have a regressive tax system or refuse to expand Medicaid or have one of the worst social safety nets in America. But in this state, if you want to keep from giving a working white man a hand up, just tell him a Black man will get it too. 

Our right-wing lawmakers have created such an environment of self-destruction among the working class in this state by carefully cultivating hate and segregation through decades of lies and distortions. Lies meant to divide us based on something as insignificant as skin color. Distortions meant to persuade that the heart and mind inside white skin are different than the ones in black skin. 

Saying it out loud, it’s absurd, of course. 

But in practice, it has led to a day split between honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s sacrifice and fight for simple equality for all men and women, and also honoring Robert Lee, a murderous traitor to the country who owned and beat slaves. It has led to fights — some 200 years later — over monuments to slave owners. 

That is the power of a lie told to someone who wants to believe it. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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