Fiction is a useful currency in the stories we tell ourselves. In the arts in particular, fiction is fundamental to awakening universal and human truths – whether it’s your favorite high-profile television thriller, Ray Bradbury’s dystopias of the imagination, or one of the myriad parodies released. on TikTok every day. In real life, fiction has a much more dangerous application. In real life, it is not just the telling of the story that is harmful, but the storyteller’s disproportionate belief in it. It is their need for fiction, their addiction.
We all cling to one version of the truth, even if it makes it wrong to someone else. This is almost always the case with people who hold some form of status, people who mercilessly covet it, who were born with power and who have never lived without it. They so tightly pamper their slippery and mutated fiction because it has come to define them with a sort of shameless authority and losing it would upset the order of their world, perhaps even the foundation of their identity. Who would they be then? They fear the ugliness of whatever awaits them on the other side of the making – the ugliness of who they are in the absence of it, the ugliness of everything they’ve done to keep it going, the ugliness of that. what it means to live without the security, control and money, to live with the same deficit as the people they rely on to maintain their role.
Since the beginning of our democratic project, but certainly before it too, this currency has been particularly useful in the history that America is spreading. This fiction was in the spotlight on Wednesday when a crowd of supporters of President Trump stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers voted to confirm the results of the presidential election. With little resistance from the police and as members of Congress fled to secure locations, mobs broke into the Senate chambers, ransacking offices and fleeing with federal property. “This is our country”, they were singing as they invaded the halls of Congress. “It’s our home.” Helpers reportedly hastily grabbed the boxes with the Electoral College certificates, assuring that the unruly mob could not steal the election results, just as they claimed to have done to Trump. On Friday, five people were reported dead.
Across social media, images of the insurgency polarized the timeline. The anarchy of the moment lends itself to the easy meme fodder, and the fiction of American virtue has appeared for all to see. It turns out we’re no better than that. This is exactly who we are. For some it was a wake-up call. For others who know how monstrous America can be, it was a corroboration of guilt, a violent result of the myths this country stands for.
Many of the most striking images of Wednesday’s uproar were about volume – loud, resonant snapshots of homemade American carnage. Of all the videos and photos that crossed my thread, I was particularly drawn to an image taken in the office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. It was photographed by Saul Loeb and depicts three rioters at rest. Two take position behind the desks and the third sits between them on the sofa in profile. The face of one is hidden by the American flag, both protection and concealment, while the other, a woman, wearing a red “Keep America Great” hat, appears to be playing with the desk phone. They are placed symmetrically under three gilt-framed paintings hanging on a sea-green wall. Loeb’s photograph is unusually void of noise. There is a calm, a strange comfort that is at odds with the context in which it was taken. The rioters almost seem to be in their place, as if they are at work, as if they own the place.