On Monday night, nearly a month after Trump-supporting insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol looking to overturn a democratic election and, in some cases, kill U.S. lawmakers, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram Live to share her harrowing account of that day.
Traumatized not only by the close encounter with people who were there to harm her but also the PTSD she suffers as a result of a previous sexual assault, Ocasio-Cortez said that as she hid in another congresswoman’s office, she thought she was going to die.
“I felt that if this was the journey that my life was taking, that, I felt that things were going to be OK, and that, you know, I had fulfilled my purpose.”
She was inarguably right to be terrified. Terrorism was, in part, the goal of the Capitol insurrection. Last month, in fact, a 34-year-old Texan named Garret Miller was arrested for taking part in the riot and posting violent threats online, including a tweet that simply said, “Assassinate AOC.”
But to the many on the right who have told her and other Democrats to “move on” from those events, Ocasio-Cortez says they were “using the same tactics of every other abuser who just tells you to move on.” Just a cursory scroll through Twitter in the wake of her powerful testimony proves her point.
“This is a masterclass in emotional manipulation,” says journalist Michael Tracey.
“Only AOC can make the Capitol riots all about herself,” tweets Breanna Morello.
“Members of congress lie, including AOC. Especially AOC,” says Austin Petersen.
“All this tells us is that AOC is not emotionally prepared to be in Congress or any other form of leadership. She wants to be coddled,” according to RBPundit.
Sadly, this is not surprising. In the ugly, divisive and tribal political hellscape in which we are currently living, AOC is a reviled figure on the right — ergo we shouldn’t expect even the revelation that she’d been sexually assaulted, or that she was fearing for her life on Jan. 6, cowering in a closet and wondering aloud if she’ll live to be a mother one day, to be met with basic decency or empathy by some hardened partisans who see only enemy avatars, not actual people.
The rioters who breached the Capitol — the ones who shouted “hang Mike Pence,” the women who went looking for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to “shoot her in the friggin’ brain,” the man who beat a police officer with an American flag, another who attacked a police officer with a hockey stick, another who etched “Murder the Media” into a door inside the building, the people who planted pipe bombs around Washington, D.C., that day, the ones who marched swastikas into the people’s house, the ones who carried Confederate flags and white pride signs — they weren’t thinking about the people in that building, only their own hate.
They weren’t thinking about moms and dads, daughters and sons, grandparents and grandchildren in that building when they went looking for scalps. They didn’t see officer Brian Sicknick as Charles and Gladys’ son, or Ken and Craig’s brother, when they killed him with a fire extinguisher. They didn’t see Nancy Pelosi as Bella’s grandma, or Mike Pence as Charlotte’s dad.
The Republican lawmakers like Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who taunted their supporters into fighting the election results, hyping baseless claims of fraud and “stolen” elections, weren’t thinking about the people on the other side of the anger they were stoking. They weren’t thinking about the human cost of all that frothing, fearmongering and incitement. Remarkably and chillingly, they don’t appear to be even now, as they continue to spread the lies.
And Trump — who for years made a name pitting Americans against each other, telling anyone who would listen that all their problems were caused by people who didn’t look like them, waging war on enemies both real and imaginary, lying to his own followers, fanning their conspiracy theories, convincing them to go to war for him, to kill for him, to die for him — he didn’t care about the people who would do just that and lose everything in the process.
This kind of unconscionable moral rot has infected America deep in its core. It’s in our partisan politics, our self-destructive culture wars, our hysterical media and our addiction to hate.
It’s in the reactions to Ocasio-Cortez’s moving account of her trauma: “move on,” “she’s lying,” “she just wants attention.” Is it that impossible to separate her politics from her person?
It’s becoming clearer with every passing day that amid all the things posing an imminent threat to our way of life — disease, climate change, war — it’s truly our inability to see each other as people before politics that’s going to destroy us.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.