A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 185

Monday, January 11

In 1968, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger lamented that “in sleepy London Town there’s just no place for a street fightin’ man.”

My name is called Disturbance; I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the King, I’ll rail at all his servants

Later, Jagger explained the song “Street Fighting Man” to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone: “These endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France.”

So what would the Stones—or those more typically identified with the 1960s counterculture and Vietnam War opposition—say about the events of January 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C.?

They’d probably agree with me that, yes, it was sedition. Yes, it was vandalism and yes, it was reprehensible.

And it threatened to spiral into even more unthinkable violence. Imagine how we’d feel if any member of the Congress had been beaten or shot by Trump’s hooligans. What if Nancy Pelosi or even Mike Pence had been assaulted or killed?

That said: What if it had been 1968? What if the issue on the floor of Congress had been sending more troops to Vietnam or appropriating more money to bomb Hanoi or Haiphong? What if the most flamboyant demonstrator had been Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin rather than the horned-headgear wearing Jake Angeli? How would I feel then? 

Sympathetic, I must admit. (But I must also quickly admit that Hoffman, Rubin et. al were more likely to be attacked by police than to be doing the attacking, as the Chicago demonstrations showed.)

Trump’s hooligans—albeit unknowingly—likely took clues from the 1960s Youth International Party, or Yippies. Rather than showering dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, these folks were defacing artwork, maiming and killing police, and stealing speaker’s lecterns.

“Raw, lascivious, and disgraceful,” even murderous, Trumpism has a lot in common with the pre-Lenten blowouts known as carnival, as The New York TimesDavid Brooks has suggested. Trump himself is the Lord of Misrule, making outrageous pronouncements simply in order to foster outrage and uproar.

Meanwhile, observers are left fumbling for the terminology appropriate to describe the Capitol events. In The New Yorker, historian Jill Lepore agreed that it was an insurrection, but also noted that it “looked to be a shambles: a shabby, clownish, idiotic, and aimless act of mass vandalism.”

Whatever. Here’s hoping we can get through the inauguration without seeing any more of it.

Dinner: leftover turkey meatloaf, out-of-season asparagus (from Peru!), and a green salad.

Entertainment: Season two episodes of “Last Tango in Halifax” on Netflix.

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