On January 6, 2021, an angry mob stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC. They were self-proclaimed patriots with the intent of hanging the Vice President, killing the Speaker of the House and harming other members of Congress. This mob consisted of Trump supporters and included a coalition of Evangelical Christians, members of law enforcement, former members of the military, white supremacists, QAnon members, and ordinary citizens united in their goal to stop the certification of the election. In the minds of these seditious insurrectionists, they were upholding the Constitution that stood as the nation’s palladium for over two centuries. They were summoned there not by a foreign adversary, but instead, by the 45th president of the United States.
Fueled by caustic rhetoric in the form of the “Big Lie,” they believed and asserted that the election was stolen and that they were there to “Stop the Steal.” Inside the building were both houses of Congress assembled for the sole purpose of certifying the election results. Over two hundred years ago, this citadel of Democracy was attacked by a foreign nation and nearly burnt to the ground. But on this cold day, it was attacked by domestic terrorists who erroneously claimed that the president-elect was fraudulently elected. Armed not with facts but with innuendo repeatedly dismissed by the courts. By all definitions of the word, it was a coup witnessed by millions around the world. Some showed their disdain by urinating and defecating in the halls of this icon of Democracy. Many argue what the rioters were doing in the halls, was tantamount to what some members of Congress were doing inside the chambers to the Constitution by cruising along with the ”Big Lie.” Most alarming is that the insurrectionists may have been helped in their breech of the Capitol by Capitol police or members of Congress.
It was reported that the president and his White House enablers watched the insurrection with glee and refused to intervene. Instead, the president was emboldened by the support of his followers in their quest to keep him in power. What was once a party of Conservatism became a cult of personality preferring autocracy over democracy. They removed the American flag and replaced it with a flag bearing the name of their leader. Democracy and the will of the people be damned.
Amid a raging pandemic that killed 4,000 people on that day, they emerged unmasked spreading the Coronavirus along with the virus of vitriol, racism and hate. The sickness of the nation was apparent with no immediate vaccine in sight. The norms of government, held for over 200 years, no longer satisfied millions of Americans that believed the election was stolen and sympathized with those that stormed the Capitol. Not only were Trump supporters unmasked amid a raging deadly virus, but the underlying racial tensions and disparities as well.
At the core of this rebellion was the unalienable right of whiteness, replete with all of the privileges bestowed hitherto. They believed that their candidate didn’t lose the election, it was stolen from him by those people of color who illegally voted for the president-elect in the inner cities or by voting machines that were manipulated to discard his votes. Years of dog-whistling and overt signs of support of racist ideologies converged on an attack led by the Commander in Chief. He refused to call out the National Guard until his supporters were given enough time to complete his message of rebellion and defile the hallow grounds of the Capitol building. Race was the underbelly of the insurrection as this mostly white crowd penetrated the inner sanctums of the building unabated. Months earlier, during Black Lives Matter’s peaceful protests, federal buildings and monuments were protected by the National Guard. Yet on this day, the insurrectionists were able to just walk in and out the door with few arrests.
Annexing the spirit of 1776 to evoke their cause, they incorrectly referenced the Constitution to justify their revolution. Their cause was the antithesis of the words delineated in the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. Still, they marched on. Instead of upholding the Constitution and pledging their allegiance to the American flag, they used Old Glory to strike the defenders of the flag and the true ideals of America were eclipsed by their rage. They walked through the Capitol bearing the Confederate flag as an unambiguous and ignominious reminder of America’s dark past now carried into the future.
As the events unfolded, it became apparent that was not a peaceful march that got out of control, but rather, a planned attack to overturn the results of the election. The attack was the culmination of years and years of misinformation and the distortion of truth, starting with the election of America’s first black president and the establishment of the Tea Party. What it means to be an American has been redefined along racial lines. Perhaps best exemplified by those that claimed Obama was not an American citizen and the birther lie. Over time, these self-proclaimed patriots became terrorists against their own government.
America has always been a Janis faced nation. One side turned toward our better angels, the other toward the demons of the past. The same country that produced Barrack Obama also produced Donald Trump. The same country that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan also gave rise to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. The same nation that created the Black Lives Matter movement also propagated QAnon conspiracies.
From its inception, racism was woven into the fabric of America. The history of this nation attests that any progress made by black people came with its associated backlash. The “Big Lie” is not new and thus remains an obstacle on the road to A More Perfect Union. It has been said that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its pants. And on that day in January, the Big Lie was displayed in real-time around the world.
The Founding Fathers bear some of the responsibility. In pursuit of their happiness, they perpetuated the lie of racial superiority. Written by white men, the Constitution imbued white privilege, not in its philosophical words, but in its interpretation. The Framers of the Constitution, despite their luminary genius, turned a blind eye toward slavery and a jaundiced eye toward people of color. They did not want to share this country with people of color and designated black people, not as humans, but instead, as “species of property.” Conscious of their hypocrisy, the word slave or slavery does not appear in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, time and circumstance have called, not only their words but their actions into question. The visionary light that inspired them has now been passed through the prism of justice to display its vibrant colors held within. Still, these colors remain invisible to those blinded by their hubris and inalienable rights of whiteness. Many, Americans believe that the long arc of justice has not reached its turning point on its journey toward A More Perfect Union. Some fail to recognize that the rainbow of colors was formed by the sunshine after the long rain of injustice that reigned for centuries. And yet others, fail to acknowledge the myriad possibilities of a cosmopolitan and racially diverse nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Notwithstanding, America is more than a shining city on a hill. It is a beacon of light for the world. Even though the beacon was dimmed on that cold winter day, the light still shines. Two weeks later, on Inauguration Day, three former presidents emerged, in the coldest and darkness of night, eliminated by the light of monuments, to pledge their support for Joe Biden the new president. They assured that the flame of democracy was still lit in the lighthouse of America. Reminding their fellow Americans that a nation can never be great unless it resurrects itself to form a new nation that is remindful of its past, optimistic of its future and adherent to its creed. Indeed, “faith sees best in the dark.” On that day, the Capitol was restored to its majestic beauty as a sign of our fidelity to the cause of freedom, justice and equality for all Americans.
For his role in the insurrection, Donald J. Trump was impeached. He is the only president in the history of the United States to be impeached twice, the only one to lose the popular vote twice and the only president, in recent times. to never have a majority of Americans support him during his presidency. Banned from Facebook and Twitter because of his caustic and divisive rhetoric, he is the only president in over 150 years not to attend the inauguration of the new president.
The Founding Fathers looked back to Rome for their guidance in hope that America would not meet the same demise. The historian Will Durant wrote the following concerning the downfall of Rome “A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself from within.” A cornerstone of American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power. This did not happen during the election of 2020. My Fellow Americans, now is the time for us to choose what kind of America we want to be. One ruled by the will of the people or one ruled by the vainglory of a single individual. Instead of Stop the Steal, why don't we just try: Stop the Lies.