The most jarring image that crossed my screen last week, was of a man holding a confederate flag inside the United States Capitol Hill building. While everything I saw this day left me with PTSD, this image sent a chill down my spine. It sent a clear message that the forces Abraham Lincoln fought all those years ago to keep the union from breaking - were alive and well and felt emboldened to rear their ugly head, to be heard and seen as starkly as possible.
What we witnessed on Jan 6th, 2021, was in the making for many years. The signs were always present, flourishing on the internet and right wing media, and I and others have been writing and warning about it, since America elected the most unsuitable candidate to the highest office in the land.
The greatest threat America faced I said on the day he was elected was the “Normalization of Donald Trump”. The normalization that ensued and continues, has brought us to this moment in time.
On January 6th everything that is ugly and abhorrent about this nation was on display. Racism, bigotry, white supremacy, violence, hatred, anti-semitism, guns, bombs, rage, misinformation and anger against the establishment were all visible in the faces and props of the domestic terrorists. All aspects Donald Trump had been stoking over the years, in the pursuit of support, adulation and intoxication.
Donald Trump has been assaulting American democracy and its norms in plain sight, since even before he walked into The White House. This was his final assault.
When he called Mexicans rapists, proclaimed he could shoot anyone on fifth avenue and have no consequences, paid off a porn star, built a wall, called racists and arsonists fine special people, withdrew from the climate accords, dismantled environment protections, threatened a foreign government to extort dirt on a rival, caged children, pardoned loyal criminals and more, he was engaging in a steady consistent assault, all the while being applauded, aided and abetted.
His assault escalated when he lost the election despite all his efforts to undermine it even before it began. He openly said many times he would not honor the result of the election unless he won and a peaceful transfer of power was not a given.
When millions voted to replace him, he could not come to terms with it. So he decided to do what he knows best, become authoritarian.
First he got his enablers to go along, by dangling 74 million of his supporters as bait, so they would join him in calling a free and fair election fraudulent. He then sent his most loyal servants across the nation to file bogus lawsuits hoping his appointees in the judiciary would favor him as payback. When that didn’t work, he made phone calls and sent Tweets intimidating election officials, who had voted for him, asking them to openly engage in criminality. When all else failed he incited an insurrection and attempted a coup.
This is the story of Donald Trump. Those who had any intelligence and an iota of foresight, could have seen this coming all along. The one constant and consistent thing about him, is that he never minces words or tries to veil his thoughts. He always doubles down when exposed and never apologizes for anything, as in his mind he could never do or say anything wrong.
People call it sociopathic narcissistic behavior. It is just power giving someone a god complex. And those who attacked the Capitol, were his most sincere followers, who believed and swallowed whatever was fed to them without hesitation and doubt. They were willing to give up their freedom all the while chanting USA!, USA!, as in their mind they were patriots saving the nation from tyranny.
Those who did not see this attack coming were either complicit, delusional or appreciated Donald Trump’s behavior in the hope of some selfish gain in the form of tax cuts or having not to wear masks in a pandemic. Or yearned to a see a nation turn its back on all progress, and become an insular inward looking global pariah.
When this part of American history is recorded, all those who were responsible in creating a climate for this raid to happen, will have to reckon with what transpired. They will have to look in the mirror and ask themselves that introspective question, “what was I really thinking?”
Like the Germans of the 1930s and 40s and their descendants who struggle to find words to express how they could have gone so wrong, it is my hope that Americans engage in some soul searching, as that is the only way to seek the truth and reach reconciliation, to explain to future generations how they got it wrong.
What history and legend teaches us, is that feeding the beast has consequences. When you do not see or refuse to recognize “the beast”, even when it is in plain sight, it will eventually devour you.