I watched in horror at the scene unfolding in Washington D.C., yesterday, along with the rest of the world. I saw American citizens carrying American flags while actively engaging in outright insurrection. I watched American citizens proudly high-fiving each other while they terrorized lawmakers, who were performing their lawful duty. And I choose to lay the blame for it precisely where it should be: At the feet of Donald Trump and every one of his enablers. That culpability lies with all the voters who refuse to see him for what he is. It lies with all the Republican legislators who have opposed the electoral vote, or who remained silent while Donald Trump assaulted our democracy. As I watched yesterday’s madness intensify, I wondered if there was any regret among those lawmakers, while they cowered under their seats as a mob stormed the United States Capitol. I wondered what went through their minds after they objected to the confirmation of a duly-elected president. Or if they felt any contrition for encouraging the people who broke windows, climbed walls, invaded offices, hung over the doors of the chamber of Congress, and fought with police officers on the steps of the Capitol building.
Did any of these legislators ask themselves if they had gone too far? Did any of them question what their support of a lying, cheating, megalomaniacal dictator, clearly the most dangerous man in America, has led us to? Have they taken even one moment to accept responsibility for what happened on this day? During the past four years of Donald Trump’s insane reign over this nation, through all his inane tweets, his promulgation of lies, his flagrant disregard of decency, his gleeful breaking of laws and norms, these lawmakers defended and shielded him. They have stood as a firewall against every one of his misdeeds and political transgressions. And as Donald Trump’s rabid supporters embarrassed the United States, as they revealed to the world that American citizens are willing to exchange democracy for the whims of one man, I had questions of my own. Where were the rubber bullets and tear gas police fired at peaceful protestors last June when Trump ordered law enforcement to clear his way for a photo-op? Where were the police officers who would have “feared for their lives,” had those rioters been a different color? Why was there less of an effort to stop these fascist terrorists than there has been to disperse people protesting for justice? There is a reason why the rioters went as far as they did yesterday, and that reason is tolerance. There’s been far too much if it. There was too much of it when armed, maskless Trump supporters marched into the Michigan State Capitol last spring. There was too much of it three weeks ago when rampaging Trump supporters stormed Washington D.C., and burned Black Lives Matter signs in front of Black churches. There was too much of it when 14 senators joined Trump in refusing to accept the votes of more than 81 million Americans. Yes, we should be horrified, angered and embarrassed by what occurred in our nation’s capital yesterday, but we shouldn’t be shocked. It’s too late for that. We should have known that enabling Donald Trump would ultimately lead to this.
We should have known that electing a completely morally corrupt individual to this nation’s highest political office, and allowing him to remain there, would eventually culminate in violence. We should have realized that a man with an absence of character and common decency would appeal to people just like himself. We should have expected pandemonium when Donald Trump told us all that an election he doesn’t win can’t be legitimate.
We should have known all this, and more, long before now. We should have known it when Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and that only some were, “good people.” We should have known it when he denigrated a Gold Star family simply because they were Muslim. We should have known it when he called African and Caribbean nations, “shithole countries.” We should have known it when he called armed, white supremacists in Charlottesville, “fine people.” As I watched the madness unfold in Washington, I remembered something a very wise South African said to me in Johannesburg last winter: You don’t give a man like Donald Trump power. You defeat him before he defeats you.
As a nation and as a free society, we have come uncomfortably close to defeat. We didn’t because the majority of the electorate made their choice clear. And, this time, that choice wasn’t Donald Trump.
If nothing else, yesterday showed us how close we came to total destruction.