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Capitol Riots: Putsch and Prejudice

There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots. – Ulysses S. Grant

In September, I predicted that violence would come to America sooner or later due to Donald Trump’s dangerous, fascist rhetoric regarding the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. But while it is easy to discuss the potential fall of American democracy in the abstract, it is nothing less than shocking and heartbreaking to view an attempted putsch in real time.

As someone of Jewish ethnicity, I have many close friends back home whose families came to America to escape the same images of hatred and insurrection that I now see on the very steps of our Capitol. There are no words for the sadness in my heart as the world watches what has become of my country. Just a few short years ago, America was the world’s most influential and powerful, if not flawed, democracy. Today, you could be forgiven for confusing images from Washington D.C. with those of Munich in 1923.

While yesterday’s terrorism was horrific and gobsmacking, it has been a long time coming. Many of us, especially on the political left, warned that the nationalism Trump espoused in his 2016 campaign could one day lead to a moment like this. But not only was he controversially elected president, for the past four years Republicans, their supporters, and their radical media universe have played the dangerous game of appeasing an aspiring dictator for the benefit of their cultural conservatism, cronyism, and white supremacist attitudes.

While, as President-elect Joe Biden stated consistently during his campaign, our country must find a way to lower the temperature and unite, it is difficult to overstate the rage I feel against America’s right wing for allowing us to get to this point. Shame on Mitch McConnell. Shame on Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Shame on every Republican who acquitted Trump of impeachment charges. Shame on the entire Trump family and every single one of his enablers. History will remember you as the men and women (but mostly white men) who shamefully disgraced our country by aiding and abetting the rise of domestic terrorism. By waging war on truth. By becoming traitors to our foundational principles.

The move toward radicalism on the right has been swift. When terrorists in large numbers think themselves patriotic freedom fighters against a vast conspiracy and turn their guns on their fellow citizenry, you no longer have a remotely stable republic. Indeed, America today resembles the very countries it has spent decades waging war on abroad in its ultimately misguided attempts to spread democracy. Our allies look on in horror, our enemies sneer knowing that any attempts at the US moralizing abroad can now be dismissed out of hand.

It must also be acknowledged how exemplary the response to the pro-Trump rioters is of the racism and white supremacy that exists in American law enforcement. Just last summer, peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were met with graphic violence, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Those protestors never posed nearly the same threat that these Trumpian terrorists did on Wednesday. But rather than adequately and swiftly protecting federal property and all the individuals inside, some police members took selfies with insurrectionists. The difference in police response is stark and terrifying in its tacit approval of racism and anarchistic fascism.

In the summer of 2018, I worked in the Capitol for my congressman, Brad Schneider of Illinois’ 10th district. I gave tours of the very halls that have now played victim to vulgarity, hatred, and terrorism, espousing a now-hollow version of my country’s history and ideals. The Capitol building prided itself as the home of not just the American democratic experiment, but a shining beacon of enlightenment and progress, a city on a hill for all the world to aspire to. While I never subscribed to American exceptionalism, certainly not the strain of such that lends itself to the very same nationalist ideology held by yesterday’s perpetrators, I have always felt that America’s institutions were truly exceptionally designed—rarely in our world’s history has humanity built such a long-lasting and powerful republic. But even great societies become decadent and fall.

That has been America’s path thus far. Donald Trump has been the death of America as we knew it. His ongoing encouragement of and praise for insurrection, backed by lies and conspiracy that call into question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, is endlessly toxic and destructive. The consequences of his maneuvers will be long-lasting even if they ultimately fail, forever tarnishing the character of the United States.

But this is only the beginning. Trump’s ilk will continue to attempt a coup d’état in the lead up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, if not after. Despite hollow assertions to the contrary, Donald has made it clear he will not leave office quietly, even if it means holding literal congresspeople hostage. And there will be more violence and perhaps more death. Law enforcement is clearly compromised or otherwise inadequate, meaning the military may need to get involved in order to keep the peace, likely against the orders of their own commander in chief.

If Republicans inside the administration had a shred of respect for their country, they would immediately invoke the 25th amendment to remove President Trump from office. Assuming their ongoing spinelessness, congress must move to impeach him again. Make no mistake, Donald Trump and his followers have been and will continue to be the greatest threat to America’s national security.

I am not sure if the US can last another two weeks until Biden officially takes the reigns. Even afterward, where do we go from here? How do we come back together after a moment like this? How can I ever feel pride in returning to my country? How can I ever look a Trump supporter in the eye with respect?

Someday, I hope we heal. For now, I can only sit here in isolation and across the pond, endlessly anxious for the future of America.

Image Credits: Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA

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