From January 6 Rage to (Near) Unconditional Empathy on January 7

Michael Francis
6 min readJan 7, 2023
January 6 riot at the US Capitol
(Image Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

I struggle to think of a moment I felt more gutted, frustrated and enraged than the few hours I spent watching the January 6 insurrection live last year. While I certainly have my grievances with American democracy, it’s legitimacy, and what we should consider acceptable protest against illegitimate institutions, I couldn’t help but feel that all that was good about this American experiment was under siege.

It seemed what I was witnessing was an attack on the idea of democracy itself; that a group of people could insist through force and rhetoric alone that votes do not matter; that their leader was the only legitimate outcome, despite the voice and will of the people.

I looked on at the hundreds of individuals who breached and rioted with utter disdain, disgust and anger. I did this despite a streak of anarchism that makes popular protest — even violent cases — acceptable when necessary. Put another way, it wasn’t that the Capitol had been breached, but that it had been done in the name of authoritarianism.

I was mad. I still am mad. But something interesting happened the next day.

Empathy Wins Out

Perhaps it was that carve out I have within myself to permit such acts when justified that lead me to a near unconditional…

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