If you’ve been paying attention, Wednesday’s act of terrorism at the U.S. Capitol was not surprising.
The President of the United States, a singularly selfish and hate-fueled actor the likes of which you couldn’t make up, called for his supporters to interfere with the certification of election results and stage an attempted coup. These terrorists stormed the Capitol — and in many cases, walked right past overwhelmed and undermanned Capitol Police — into what should be one of the most secure buildings in the world. They broke windows, stole from offices, walked right onto the floor. And perhaps worst of all, nearly all got away with it, or will, despite the photos of videos clearly pointing out who these people are.
You see, these individuals don’t care about the consequences of their actions here because they know there aren’t any. Donald Trump, a uniquely ghoulish individual in any nation’s history, has proven it to them given his conduct. Actions by various right-wing hate groups have proven it.
Again, if you’ve been paying attention, you weren’t surprised by what occurred on Wednesday... even if expecting something terrible to happen and actually seeing it happen are two very different things. Seeing it happen, despite the expectation, was indeed a truly awful spectacle nonetheless.
But attention also goes far beyond just this week, or Trump’s unprecedented push to destabilize this country in the wake of an election he lost. Trump’s initial presidential campaign and his four years in office were preceded by this nation’s long history of giving intolerance a pass. He’s just specifically harnessed that intolerance, hate and racially-fueled fear and mixed it with a personality that encourages Americans to be the worst, most self-absorbed versions of themselves. In doing so, he’s made himself a shield for hate. The sword, however, may already be far beyond his control in the form of many who feel they have nothing to lose in exchange for a figurative pat on the head from the man himself.
On Wednesday, he told them they were special, and that’s all they’ll need to keep forging ahead well beyond his time in office and quite possibly, his time on Earth as well.
Hate’s a powerful tool, as mankind knows. The “other” has been a staple of empires rising and falling, and it’s played a core role in our own story here in the U.S. Results of that commitment to define who is and isn’t have been a lengthy and unacceptable list of human and civil rights atrocities both within and outside our borders. And now, they’re meeting somewhat of a recent phenomenon for a growing number of Americans: a willing and outward embrace of authoritarianism.
Trump is not alone acting as an authoritarian in this country, but deserves scorn for being the latest and most powerful person to do so. His Republican Party can shoulder plenty of blame for fostering this recent and toxic mix of nationalism, racism, authoritarianism and tribalism. Establishment Democrats have also reaped the benefits of those dynamics to some degree, and an ability for both sides to largely “get right back to work” on Wednesday evening without immediate actions against the president shows how truly broken this system has become.
This democracy, it winds up, was always a tepid arrangement that required willing actors and compliance. Most countries get their systems of government stress-tested from time to time, in order to make improvements. The U.S. experienced an uncharacteristically long stretch without much of one, but now stares a drastically different future in the face, each daring one another to blink first.
As a skeptic, part of me feels like this country blinked on Wednesday, and there’s no going back. These terrorists felt emboldened to act and were emboldened afterward. What’s going to stop them from doing it again? Trump is constantly emboldened. Why would an elected office be the only reason why that’s the case at this point? Even President-Elect Joe Biden appears eager to turn the page from this ugly chapter, rather than hold the institutions and actors that emboldened this behavior accountable. I just don’t believe that’s a tenable solution any longer. When you look at the other times we’ve tried that, when has it ever worked to begin with?
This may sound fatalistic, but we can’t get the wolf out of the house because he lives here and always has to a degree. It’s not Trump. It’s the long-standing hate he’s happy to embrace. And when he’s gone, he’s already given birth to enough surrogates to keep this going... Unless we truly eradicate hate, in part by pursuing real consequences for those who’ve normalized its presence in this modern society.
I’m not even just directing this at one party or one politician. A failure to have real discussions about the 25th Amendment after the President’s treasonous and seditious actions is tolerance. A failure to quickly begin impeachment proceedings is tolerance.
If not now, when? If not this guy, then who, ever is worth the attempt to remove them from office?
You can’t snap your fingers and erase hate. But you can try harder than what’s occurred to-date. You can improve yourself as a nation and as an individual. You can actually penalize those that have put this country’s future in grave danger. You can help enact lasting change for marginalized communities and try to make that future better.
I don’t have a ton of solutions here, admittedly, but needed to express (some of) my feelings after what occurred on Wednesday. The comments are closed, but happy to talk about this one on email or Twitter, if that’s something you’d like to do (whether you agree with me or not).