I never dreamed older people would try to overthrow The State in their spare time – until I saw pictures from The Capitol
WHEN I STARTED writing this blog, I wondered what the future might hold for me and other 50-somethings.
I thought – correctly as it turned out – that I’d be writing mostly about dodgy knees, grey pubes, baldness, and binge drinking.
But, until I saw the pictures from The Capitol, I never thought about us rioting.
I really didn’t think people my age would try to overthrow The State in their spare time, or get involved in a tragedy that led to five people losing their lives.
Looking at pictures of the folks kicking off in and around The Capitol, however, it’s striking how many of them are middle aged, or older.
What about the greybeard in the photo at the top of this article, for example, accessorising his generous gut with a Hells Angel jacket, body armour, and warrior arm guards?
Or how about the bloke with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk – identified later as Richard Barnett, 60 (!), from Arkansas?
Mr Barnett clearly thinks he’s still got some lead in his pencil, despite his age.
“If you don’t like it,” he warned the authorities, “send somebody out to get me ’cause I ain’t going down easy.”
At least from this side of the Atlantic, it’s odd to see people who look like you – pale and a bit out of shape, defying their hypertension and bad backs – staging a violent insurrection.
What to make of the chap to the left of the picture above, who looks like he’s using a dog basket or a large sofa cushion as armour while he storms the police line? So chintzy and suburban! Perhaps he’s still wearing his carpet slippers?
Then there’s this roaring old bird, who must be 70 if she’s a day, but reckons she’s still got the spirit of revolutionary France, straight outta 1789, in her. Actually, I suppose there might be a faint chance she was at the barricades the first time…
But the person who bemused me most of all was the woman above, standing just behind the old Hells Angel.
It’s so strange to think that a respectable-looking, older white lady like this – the sort you think would whip a tissue from her handbag if you grazed your knee falling off a bike – might form part of a mob.
It’s also been uncomfortable to see folks who look like you, and feel so hostile towards them. But, after Wednesday, there’s a whole new weight of negative cultural baggage and assumptions that I find myself loading onto the Trump-supporting right.
Feeling this way also seems weirdly analogous to the way some whites discriminate against black people – in large part because they feel uncomfortable with how they look, and what they think they know about them.
So Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media? Really?”
Of course, in many ways this is none of my business: I don’t know what it’s like to be an American, still less a Trump-supporting American.
From 3,500 miles away, I don’t understand why many people still believe the vote has been ‘stolen’, when even a Trump hardliner like Lindsey Graham now admits there’s no evidence of election fraud.
But what I suspect is that Trump’s guys – like the MAGA-cappers from the Rust Belt struggling with the downside of the American Dream – are justifying their anger in some semi-conscious way by latching onto ‘The Steal’ and QAnon conspiracy theories.
So Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media? Really?
I can accept that paedophiles in high places might exist in any country – your Cyril Smiths and your Jimmy Savilles in the UK, for example.
But I find it mind-boggling that so many mature people from a civilised nation can buy into utter bullshit like the QAnon stuff. (I was going to say something more elegant, like ‘fable’, but ‘bullshit’ is really the only word here).
If Americans weren’t suffering economically, would they be quite so willing to listen to Trump and his fables?”
To my mind, believing in this stuff can only be some sort of warped – conscious or otherwise – justification for getting angry and wanting to smash things.
This fits in with what I learned at university, studying the Dutch Revolt of the 1570s: that people whose lives are already difficult find it much easier to riot about something else.
Back in 16th century Holland, people latched onto the religious protest against Spanish rule in part because of economic suffering.
But, if their lives had been better, and their bellies full, would they have been arsed to get all hot and bothered about Protestantism?
And if Americans weren’t suffering economically in this century, would they be willing to listen to Trump and his – ahem – fables?
If this is 50-something activism, give me a night in with Midsummer Murders any time”
All the same, it’s still surprising to me that so many middle-aged people were at the barricades in Washington this week – even more so when the person whipping them up into such a revolutionary frenzy is a fat bloke who’s older than my parents.
But, of course, we’ve long been told not to underestimate older people; we’ve heard about Baby Boomers having it all, and that 60 is the new 40.
We’ve got used to Silver Surfers and Mall Walkers, and Cotton Tops juiced up by years and years of Step ‘n’ Stretch classes.
But I never, ever, thought we’d have it in us to go hand-to-hand fighting on the barricades – and I must say, I hope this new American custom is one that doesn’t make it over to this side of The Pond.
In fact, if this is 50-something activism, then give me a night in with Midsummer Murders and a nice chocolate digestive any time.