Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has been a thorn in the side of Republicans and establishment Democrats since the day she took office as a Congresswoman. The 31-year-old rep from The Bronx is a quintessential, late-80s-born millennial. She is confident, ambitious and has high standards of her employer. The United States government may sign her checks, but she recognizes that she works on behalf of the underrepresented people of her district. She speaks truth to power in ways that are unsettling to the customary norms of her colleagues in Congress.
Which is why her personal narrative of the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th is so important.
AOC took to Instagram Live earlier this week to give a harrowing account of what she experienced on the day hundreds of Trump-supporting white supremacists stormed the Capitol in an act of sedition. She began by telling her 8.8 million IG followers that her story was not the only horrific tale from that fateful day, nor should it be centered.
But then she did something untypical of career politicians. She opened up with raw, unscripted emotion to admit to being a survivor of sexual assault and paralleling the experience of the trauma she experienced in that encounter to the trauma she experienced on January 6th.
For roughly 90 minutes AOC gave a detailed recap from her lens of what took place during the insurrection. When she talked about terrorists roaming the halls, looking for her office and screaming “where is she?!”, I felt it. When she talked about fearing that it would be the last day of her life and accepting that if her purpose had been served, she was at peace, I felt it. When she talked about hiding in her colleague, Rep. Katie Porter’s office, I felt it.
I felt it because I believed it to be void of any exaggeration, and because on a much smaller level of a lesser direct threat, I have experienced threats that come with challenging power dynamics.
Once upon a time I was enthralled in a public argument with a bigoted councilman in my hometown that elevated to his supporters posting memes of nooses on social media, referencing it as a means to silence me. I ran across it from the comfort of my own home, but the threat was out in the ether. I spent the next several days moving about town in paranoia as my name and image were circulating on websites moderated by local racists.
It was not the first time my dissenting views of racism in my hometown drew the ire of local bigots. It was the first time I came across a message that directly suggested killing me.
Still, I cannot imagine what it was like for AOC and other targeted members of Congress to be in the Capitol within striking distance from a bloodthirsty mob. To be in a moment far more perilous than mere civil disagreement, and in AOC’s case, having that moment be a trigger of another excruciatingly dehumanizing life event.
Her retelling of the insurrection was necessary. Not for the purpose of political theater or to score binary points for the Democrats. But for the purpose of clearly articulating what it means to be almost subjected to violence by citizens of a country you dutifully serve.
I’m glad her story did not conclude that day.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be
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