Heather Cox Richardson takes down the so-called American Patriots at the Michigan statehouse.
Jeff Kowalsky’s photograph of the “American Patriot Rally” at the Michigan statehouse on April 30 shows a large, bearded man, leaning forward, mouth open, screaming. Positioned between two police officers who are staring blankly ahead above their masks, he is focused on something they are preventing him from reaching: the legislature. His fury is palpable.
The idea that such a man is an “American Patriot” is the perverted outcome of a generations of political rhetoric that has celebrated a cartoon version of “individualism.” That rhetoric has served a purpose: to convince voters that an active government that regulates business, provides a basic social safety net, and promotes infrastructure—things most Americans actually like—is socialism.
This now-famous image of the screaming “American Patriot” is a portrait of the failure of the individualist image. This is a man who punches down, not up, and who wants to have the power to decide whether his neighbors live or die. He is a bully and a coward.
You know who’s brave? The doctors and nurses who get up every morning and go to their jobs. The bus drivers who have continued to work without either hazard pay or sufficient protection, at least 94 of whom we have lost to Covid–19. The janitors and housekeeping staff who combat the virus all day, every day. The meat cutters and fishermen, shippers, drivers and store clerks who are keeping us alive, some only because it is the only way they can feed their children, which makes it all the braver. The Navy sailors trying to contain the virus so they can complete their mission. The teachers who stay upbeat for the students they terribly miss. The parents who are so very tired as they try to work and teach and parent and shop, but who get up every morning and do it again. And, yes, the political leaders trying to legislate to protect us as a handful of screaming anti-government activists terrorize them… and the photographers who record it.
These true American Patriots– not a screaming bully whose “rights” require others to die– are the very good people Abraham Lincoln meant when he called for a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”