January 11, 2021

Choosing a Name for September 6, 2021

 On September 16, 2001, I wrote an essay titled “What’s in a Name.” That essay considered the meaning of the events of September 11, 2001. But it also raised the question of how we would refer to those events in the future. As it happens, none of the names I suggested stuck. We will instead forever speak of “9/11.”

We now must consider how we will refer to the events of January 6, 2021, when, encouraged by President Donald Trump and others, an angry mob sacked the United States Capitol. It is to be hoped that this barbarism will have less historical significance than 9/11, but that remains to be seen. It is nevertheless an experience we will need to talk about, and we need to give it a name.

My first thought is that the name we use for the recent events should somehow reference Trump or Trumpism, but this may not be necessary. Here are some possibilities:

Trump Insurrection
Trump Coup
Trump Failed Coup
MAGA Failed Coup
MAGA Catastrophe
MAGA Implosion
Sack of the Capitol
Trump Putsch
Epiphany Putsch

Some of these suggestions seem a bit too abstract (“MAGA Implosion”), although I should add that “9/11” is itself somewhat indirect. “1/6” seems too derivative and, in any case, is not euphonious. “Sack of the Capitol” is quite literal, on the other hand, though it fails to name an instigator. One hopes this sack of the Capitol will not later be confused with other Capitol sacks.

I rather like the word “putsch,” defined as “a plotted revolt or attempt to overthrow a government, especially one that depends upon suddenness and speed,” according to Dictionary.com. “Trump Putsch” makes sense, though it almost gives Donald Trump too much credit. He clearly incited the actions taken by the mob he addressed, but, although he said he would march to the Capitol with them, he instead retreated to the White House.

Despite the fact that the name fails to mention Trump, I rather like “Epiphany Putsch.” January 6, of course, is the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the manifestation of the Christ child to the Gentiles. The ragtag army that marched on the Capitol had no thoughts of the Christian celebration, but the sack of the Capitol was an epiphany of sorts—it manifested, for all to see, the logical consequences of the error of Trumpism. That epiphany has been powerful enough to remove the blinders from the eyes even of some Republicans who have hitherto been unshakable Trump sycophants.

Are there other suggestions? What name shall we (and the historians) choose?

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