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An open letter to the U.S. Capitol rioters

"Dear grandson, learning that you were among the rioters at the Capitol compelled me to write to you."

An open letter to the U.S. Capitol rioters
white concrete building under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Syed F Hashemi on Unsplash
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This story is a fictional account of a grandmother finding out that her grandson was a part of the Capitol Hill riots.

Dear grandson,

I was so upset today. I noticed on the news that you were among the rioters at the U.S. Capitol, so I felt I had to write to you. I am trying to understand how it came to be. I am sorry we have not been in touch throughout your life because we live so far from each other.


As you may have heard, I have been taking care of your grandfather pretty much full time ever since he had that accident and became confined to a wheelchair. He had no health insurance at the time, and after that, he couldn't get it either, so we have been struggling.

When I heard Mr. Trump say on TV to his followers, "I love you," "you are special," I thought that might have been why you and so many others like you support him. He is like a father figure to you, and perhaps the people in your life never told you that before! So, you probably are pretty unsure of who you are and if you are worth anything.

Certainly, my son wasn't around, as he suffered from addiction when he was about your age and ended up in prison, where he remains today. But not before he got your mother pregnant with you.

She had tried getting birth control, but the clinic's wait times were so long, and by then it was too late. I know she told you she tried getting an abortion, but the clinic was too far away, and she couldn't ask anyone to drive her. She kept it secret for a long time, unsure what to do because she knew her family was against it.

She wanted to go to college, but that's hard to do with a kid. So, I'm sure she somewhat resented you, but then again, she tried to be a good mother. I have kept up with news about you through your aunt, who still in touch with your mom. I also follow you on Facebook.

That waitressing job your mom got didn't pay much, so she couldn't afford childcare. Thank goodness for your other grandma, who took care of you when you were little. You must have been so upset when she died. You were kind of a restless kid, so the only way you could sit still was in front of the TV, with a slice of pizza. As a result, you gained a little weight, and the kids at school made fun of you.

That is until you tried to show them who's boss. Your teachers talked to your mom and said you started bullying the other kids. It didn't help that your mom met your stepfather, and when he lost his job when the factory shut down, they both started to drink and yell at you and your sisters.

Then your stepfather started abusing your mom. When you protested, he was aggressive and kicked you out of the house. It was good you found a place to stay, but I don't think those guys you ended up with were a good influence on you: with their beer drinking and boasts about trivial things.

I think you all had that thing in common— you all had a miserable start in life and blamed it on the immigrants and Black people who took away the jobs. You needed someone to make you feel special.

Some of your friends ended up in church and found validation of their self-worth in the gospel message. But I guess it never stuck with you, because instead of God, you found Mr. Trump. He became the father figure, and you believed everything he said. Your church friends also rallied behind him because of one thing: his (supposed) anti-abortion views.

Let me tell you; I believe he is a con man and figured he could get the evangelicals behind him because of that. Before that, he was totally pro-abortion. But in this group, I guess you finally found the identity you had been searching for. It's too bad school didn't teach you about actual history, like the Holocaust and slavery and so on – or maybe they did, but you weren't listening, seeing as you got bad grades.

At least when you were growing up, the TV was turned to the Fox channel, and you only heard one point of view. They think the government should have no role in creating happier circumstances for people – because that would require people to pay taxes! No, it's every man for himself, and if you don't make it, that's your problem. And on social media, I see the talk between you and your friends.

It's like you live in a different world.

And with the Covid-19 pandemic, you feel boxed in by all the restrictions and feel like you're being walked over. You can't even go to a sports game to vent some of your pent-up frustration. And you and many of your friends lost your jobs when the businesses closed, so you have very little money.

I really think you have been duped and led astray by this man. He doesn't care a hoot about you and your followers, only about staying in power and about money. He would have been less dangerous if he wasn't so rich. He brainwashed you, and then he, the "commander in chief," egged you on to "fight," sneaking away to the White House to watch everything unfold on TV while partying with his family and friends – while five people are dead and many others arrested.

I hope you don't get arrested! I can't deal with another family member in prison. Are you hungry, sweetheart? Grandma doesn't have much money, but I can send you something.

Love,

Grandma

Dr.Jaana Rehnström is the Founder and President of the Kota Alliance, an organization elevating collaboration across borders for women-centered nonprofits, NGOs, and much more. View her work here.

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