By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–
Following Election Day 2020, I was hopeful that our country had turned the corner in beginning to reverse, undo, and heal from the damage done by the Trump Administration over the past four years. From a political science lens, the policies (or lackthereof) of the Trump Administration were troubling, but even more disturbing was the damage being done to our institutions, the integrity of our governmental bodies, our relationship with other countries around the world, and the example that was being set by the head of our country for every resident within it.
Once the election was called, I felt confident that the Biden/Harris Administration, especially with what we now know will be a Congress controlled by Democrats, would be able to repair much of the policy-based damage done over time. I was not naïve enough, though, to think that Joe Biden’s legitimate election victory would stifle the conspiracies, the blind allegiance, the hatred, and frankly, the ignorance that continue to propel Donald Trump and his base. As we have seen, the aftermath of the election only amplified his supporters and resulted in the pinnacle of Trumpism: The Capitol Riot.
The events of January 6th were not unpredictable, nor can we say they did not represent “who we are.” They were most certainly preceded by Trump’s unwillingness to prevent or condemn the Charlottesville violence of 2017, his teargassing of peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors for a photo opportunity with the Bible and a church, and countless moments he catalyzed and endorsed in between. Indeed, white supremacy has always been rooted in this nation collectively and in its history. It’s who we are and who we have always been, and President Trump simply ushered it–no, invited it–to come out of the woodwork onto full display.
I was half-watching the Congressional election certification when Chuck Todd’s voice caught my attention; he wanted to cut away from coverage of the Senatorial speeches to focus on the crowd that was rapidly growing outside of the Capitol building, exponentially multiplying in both size and rage far too quickly. What first appeared to be a sea of countless white faces holding Trump flags, donning American flags and camouflage gear, and screaming profanities at police and each other quickly turned into a mass of people making their way up the Capitol steps further than I’d ever seen any average person go.
In front of my eyes, the mass quickly transformed into a mob, and confederate flag-bearers were walking up and down Statutory Hall, moving rope rails, Nancy Pelosi’s dais, and taking pictures with statues adorned with Trump gear as if they owned the place. I could not fathom the magnitude of which, at least from the initial coverage, it appeared that these mobsters were simply left to do as they pleased without any element of control or concern from the police. I scrolled through Twitter reading Congressional accounts of fear and incidents of media harassment as I learned that Trump had denied requests to deploy the National Guard; Vice President Pence ended up activating the troops.
My mind could not grasp the fact that the Capitol building, which would not even allow me in the security lobby with a bottle of water or my keychain pepper spray two summers ago, had let hundreds if not thousands of domestic terrorists within feet of members of Congress (and later we learned within seconds of Pence himself). Many commentators have discussed the ramifications of the security failures, the (lack of) federal response, and the simple fact that the President himself devised and instituted this attack. But we also must consider the noose that was erected feet from the Capitol, the zip ties that were carried alongside AR-15 weapons by militia members with military training, the backpacks with clipped photos of Donald Trump’s head on Mao Zedong’s body, and what it really means that the very same people who claim to support law and order quite obviously don’t support it or its enforcers at all, but instead use that claim as an excuse to refuse to affirm that Black Lives Matter.
As we look forward to the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States, the continued threats of violence and uprising across the country cannot be understated. The lingering trial of Trump in the Senate following his impeachment in the House hangs heavy. I’ve been asked and thought long about whether or not impeachment is both politically and morally the right decision in this perilous moment. To those that suggest impeachment will only result in more division and violence, I respond with the perspective that we cannot begin to reunify and work towards peace without convicting Trump and thus permanently removing him from the formal political sphere by preventing him from running again for office. We have to take away his megaphone. To those that say pressing forward with the impeachment trial is only delaying the Biden/Harris agenda, I reply with the thought that we cannot completely move forward without addressing and bringing closure to the past.
In thinking further about how we move forward from this point in history, I am brought back to the images etched in my mind’s eye from my TV screen on January 6th and every day since. We as a nation have never truly reckoned with the legacies of white supremacy trailing all the way back to, and far before, the founding of this nation. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776 of the “truth” that “all men are created equal,” but those of his time restricted that definition to only certain men of only certain a certain class and a certain race.
On Wednesday, the first woman, a woman of color and with immigrant parents, will be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson and his peers couldn’t envision that kind of world, and some living amongst us today refuse to accept it too. But Kamala Harris is a living example of the possibility in progress, if we adamantly rebuke the hatred, violence, and those on the fringe trying to enter into the mainstream. Truly, as Joe Biden said, this is a fight for the soul of our nation, and we are in the thick of it. Who will we become? What do we want to be? I’m confident that our incoming leaders share my hope of a more peaceful, inclusive, and fair nation. One in which truth, equal justice under law, and servanthood prevail. Undoubtedly, we are still working towards our “more perfect union” in which those attributes ring true.