The individuals scaling the Capital’s walls, breaking its windows, and parading around its hallways in false triumph yesterday are not the cream of America’s crop, but they are Americans nonetheless, and we must consider how they became so radicalized. Why did some Americans so easily fall down the Trump cult-like rabbit hole? It certainly wasn’t the level of education or lack thereof that rendered some susceptible to Trump’s manipulation; there are plenty of highly educated professionals who support the man. Perhaps a need to be told what to do or to be assured they will be taken care of moved the vulnerable to latch onto Donald Trump and stick to him like Gorilla Glue. Perhaps the culprit in all this is fear. Trump capitalized on fear of the unfamiliar, and he used the possibility that who and what we don’t know can hurt us. Fear breeds hatred. Hatred binds people against a common, often fabricated enemy. Fear and hatred, hardly our best qualities, spurred Trump’s band of riotous supporters to charge the Capital.
This, of course, is a simplistic evaluation of a complicated matter, but undeniable fear and hatred were on full display as Trump zealots charged the Capital. The attack on the Capital is heartbreaking. What we witnessed is not the America my immigrant grandparents valued, worked for, and passed on to my parents. It is not what my father and his generation fought for in World War II. It is not the America I wanted for my children. Americans are no longer united in morals, values, and goals. We no longer call out injustice and evil when we see it. We first ask, “what’s in it for me?” We can no longer be trusted to identify right and wrong. Our empathy has been diminished; our humanity compromised. We have lost our way.
Dramatic? Yes, but no less true. It is also true that if Donald Trump, who incited the assault on the Capital and the symbolic assault upon democracy, is not held accountable…if his cunning Republican supporters, like Ted Cruz, are not taken to task…if the true fake media, like Fox News, is not called out for enabling Donald Trump’s falsehoods…if the domestic terrorists are not prosecuted to the full extent of the law…then the goodness America once stood for, and hopefully will stand for again, will be trampled upon and left in the dirt.
When Donald Trump rode down the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015, he brought with him a history of business failures, baseless lawsuits, questionable business ventures, financial ties to foreign adversaries, a lurid past, and a now proven instability. We should have seen the Capital tragedy coming.
The late Maya Angelou’s words were never more appropriate: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”