The raucously Trumpian attorney, Sidney Powell, has several times over the past few terrible months of our politics, shouted, “Release the Kraken,” referring to her willingness to file innumerable lawsuits to force any number of states to reverse the clear evidence of the Nov.3 election, making Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the winners, in order that the certain loser, Donald Trump, might gain a second term as president. In the light of the appalling events of Jan.6, her phrase has become more than prescient. Jan.6 did see in awful color, the release of the Kraken, as thousands of Trump loyalists stormed the capitol building and placed their eager tentacles on any number of possessions found in the hallowed edifice, bringing devastation and ruin to several locations, including offices of the most powerful legislators in the country. Among other criminal acts, laptops and I-Pads were stolen, and personal objects defaced.
The Kraken is a mythological beast, rooted in Scandinavian lore from the early middle ages, that may best be known in US America by its appearance in two parts of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. The Kraken in those films is the personal pet of the evil Davy Jones, who rises from the ocean to wreak havoc on ships and sailors. The beast in the stories resembles a massive octopus (it is in fact one German word for octopus) or giant squid, and that is the way it is portrayed in films (see also the film “Clash of the Titans”). It was believed by multiple Scandinavian sources over the centuries that the Kraken was an uncontrollable and monstrously evil creature that once released wreaked destruction and death on people and material objects.
On Jan.6, the Kraken, promised by Powell, was released. Trump supporters, invited by the president and egged on by him, became restless and fiery in a morning appearance at a huge rally, and at the President’s call, moved toward the capitol building, and proceeded to breach the minimal barriers, shove the too few capitol police aside, crowd the staircases and porticoes of the famous building, and finally break into the building through shattered windows and doors, parading around inside. Many have noted that the Confederate battle flag finally had penetrated the halls of congress, 155 years after the end of the Civil War. One man lounged at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, while another slid down the façade of the Senate chamber to crash onto the floor. In an already famous photograph, the face of one of the insurrectionists was framed in the broken window of the House chamber, while several police guns were aimed directly at him. One female member of the mob was shot and killed; she had come from California and had been radicalized on social media, convinced that the election had been fraudulent and that the country was in imminent danger of falling into Communist or socialist or Democratic hands, or perhaps all three at once, suggesting the end of the republic as she knew it. Four other persons died, one a capitol police officer who was battered by a fire extinguisher by one of the mob. Despite one report, later debunked and withdrawn, no so- called Antifa leftists were involved in the affray; all those who attacked the place of Congressional authority in Washington, D.C. on Jan.6 were advocates of Donald Trump and were directed to their behaviors by him or those who have encouraged him over the course of the last four years. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas may have been the most vocal, trying with what sounded like reasoned discussion but in fact were veiled threats to the free and fair election, and may bear the most blame, but many other minions of the president helped release the Kraken and thus bear significant piles of responsibility as well.
Through all of this we US Americans need to stop saying that “this is not us;” these wild assaulters of the halls of power cannot be exemplars of the American way, the supposed way of democracy and freedom for all. I can surely agree that they did not represent me. When terrible presidents like Richard Nixon, or presidents whom I judged less than useful ones—Reagan, George W. Bush—I was never inclined to head to Washington, gun in hand, flag waving, screaming for vigilante justice. And I am sure that any reading this have never been so inclined either. Still, I fear we must admit that in certain stark and terrible ways, we in fact have been and are all too much like this in US America. It did not take long for many African-American citizens of the nation to note the remarkable and disgusting disparity between the police response to this riot and the phalanx of heavily armed officers who met the many peaceful protests connected to the horrifying murders of too many black citizens in the spring and summer of 2020. Just how many of these crazed white rioters have been charged and jailed? And how many of them will face real justice? If these rioters had been black, or Muslim, how many would now lie dead or in prison? These are important and painful questions that demand answer.
Our nation has had a very long history of assaults against our own citizens: from the horrors of slavery to the genocide against Native Americans to the attacks on free black people following the passage of the three constitutional amendments specifically designed to bring equality to all, to the internment of loyal Japanese Americans during the 2nd World war, among other notable tragedies. Our US America has always been a nation yet to be, never a nation of justice and liberty for all. Donald Trump and his allies released this Kraken, but the Kraken has been loose in US America almost from the beginning of its founding; Jan.6 was simply the most recent example of its rampages.
Does that mean that the democratic experiment of US America is coming to an end? Or that it has in fact ended? I do not think so. After all, in the aftermath of the carnage of Jan.6, the Congress went right back to its work, and that same night confirmed the election of the Biden/Harris ticket. And today on Jan.9, calls have resounded, from many Democrats and even a few Republicans that Donald Trump should resign, or should once again be impeached for his actions that many have called criminal. Whether any of that will happen is highly uncertain since only 11 days of his term as president remain. Still, the wheels of democracy are turning as we face squarely the events that called that very democracy into the most serious question.
It is notable that all this happened on the Christian celebration of Epiphany, that day when the magic star led some Magi to discover and worship one they were told was king of the Jews. They had an epiphany, a revelation, that God had a new and fresh thing in mind for the world, and in the Christian belief system, chose to appear on the earth in the person of a helpless baby to announce that God’s way was shown once again to be unlike our human ways. Instead of violence and mayhem, God chose a cooing child as manifestation of the divine way in the world. Peace is the way forward, a peace with justice that promises inclusive hope and a rich future for the whole earth.
On Jan.6 several overt marks of Christianity appeared during the riot. There was a “Jesus 2020” banner; a cross was affixed to the top of a pole bearing the Trump/Pence flag. These gestures of supposed Christianity are as far from the announcement of Epiphany as can be imagined. In short, the Christian witness among the rioters was in no way Christian; it was nothing less than blasphemy. Yet, it is another sign that Christianity, just like the experiment of US democracy, has been coopted and disgraced by those who imagine themselves both believers and patriots. By the light of Epiphany, and in the face of the Constitution, they are neither. Jan. 6, both the quiet Epiphany and the loud riot, remind all of us that our work toward a just society is far from over. But the fact that many are still at that work should offer us hope that our goals of justice, however long besmirched, however long delayed, are achievable still. The Kraken is still among us, but it must never be allowed to have its final treacherous word.