A RARELY contemplated situation visited the United States of America last week Wednesday (January 6, 2021) and raped two very proud legacies of the country – the Congress and National Security; but the strength of the victims saw them standing up immediately after the uncanny romp to salvage the situation, even though the bruises will last for quite some time in the consciousness of Americans and the world.
It was more bizarre because the rapists belong to the clan of the sitting President, Donald Trump, and the action is widely believed to have been instigated by him. In fact, he encouraged the disdainful act and called the perpetrators patriots who were out to defend the country’s democracy. It was a scenario common in third world countries, but it visited the bastion of democracy in a very uncanny way.
It would have been highly contested by those who see the US as an infallible entity if it was suggested that an American president would oppose the result of an election adjudged to be free and fair. It would have been blasphemous mentioning that anyone would attempt to stop the final certification of the presidential election result. It happened in Nigeria in 1993, but they would have been quick to point out that the US is not Nigeria. But it happened.
It happened in the US. Capitol Hill was invaded, security overwhelmed and the Congress ransacked. Confederate flags were freely flown inside the US Congress. It was a complete desecration of the soul of the US. Neither the Capitol police nor that of the District of Columbia had a hint of the attack. They were overwhelmed. The Federal Police seemed incapacitated. They had to call in reinforcement from nearby Virginia and the National Guard was eventually activated to contain the mayhem which defied an earlier curfew imposed by the Mayor of Washington.
It kept the questions coming: how come the security network did not have a hint of it or envisaged it, in spite of several tendentious signals. The invaders that constituted the mob came from far and wide and descended on Washington; and painted the country’s heritage with tar brush. Some Americans are miffed that the same Congress which patriotic Americans aboard United Airlines Flight 93 lost their lives defending during the 9/11 attacks was so easily desecrated by touts engineered by a sitting president who refused to accept his defeat at the poll. Trump had earlier in the day insisted that the election was compromised and the result was not tenable.
Americans were surprised that it happened at all; but the world was amused that the US could be so vulnerable and was not able to, with all its entrenched institutions, tame a rampaging president who was prepared to go down the hall of infamy with all that is dear to the country. It was much so, that the famed US security network was caught pants down by a riotous mob riding on the back of a narcissistic president.
President Barrack Obama was rightly galled by the unbecoming scenario and lamented that history will remember the violence at the Capitol as a moment of great dishonour and shame to the United States. It was more appalling that it was “incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election”.
While a lot of people saw the show of shame in Washington as something unlike America, a global economist Jeffrey Sachs saw it as an upgrade of a mob culture of the American system which has moved beyond attacks on the people of colour, to invasion of the political space. “Throughout American history, most mob violence has come not as a spasmodic explosion of protest from below, but rather as structural violence from above, instigated by white politicians preying on the fears, hatreds, and ignorance of the white underclass,” Sachs stated. Quoting historian Heather Cox Richardson in the book How the South Won the Civil War, he said this variety of mob violence has been a critical part of upper-class white America’s defence of a hierarchical society for more than 150 years.
Trump has been known as an unrepentant racist and his hate for the well-being of other races in the plural American society may have fuelled his refusal to accept defeat from an ideological group that does not believe in racial segregation. Trump’s angst at seeing a black face in the White House may have pushed him into some kind of psychotic frenzy, but America is the loser at the end of it all. The United States may have immediately recovered from the nightmare to do the needful, but like Obama noted, it has entered the history books and would remain a moment of great dishonour and shame to the country.
With just about 14 days to the inauguration of a new president, how come Capitol Hill, the venue, which is quite a short distance from the White House, was so vulnerable to a mob which did not only invade the vast grounds of the Congress building, but overwhelmed the Capitol security to the extent of ransacking both the Senate President (Vice President) and Speaker’s chambers. The mob equally defied the 6.00pm curfew and dared the security. At the end of it all, five persons, including a police officer, were pronounced dead.
It is an awful thing that happened in the political history of the United States and to the country’s revered democracy which, before the coming of Trump, was a reference point as an ideal democratic Lighthouse. Trump, who during his campaigns pledged to make America great again, thoroughly diminished America during his four year regime and rubbished the voting pattern and election process in the country. His election was controversial and his exit is catastrophic. Trump himself was and is likely to remain controversy incorporated. He would be remembered for generations to come as the worst thing to happen to contemporary America. Fareed Zakaria of CNN said for those who doubted Donald Trump was a danger to America’s democracy, the mob action last week provided the smoking gun.
Crying for America over Trump therefore would seem like wasting tears. Trump was predictable and was so accurately predicted by many. Those who understand human psychology envisioned Trump leading America into the abyss. They said he would not end well; and some said he would drag America into the dung hill. They have not been disappointed. The only people that are probably disappointed are the hypocrites whose faculties have been blurred by clannish and religious opiates – those who chant racial hymns and those who wear cassocks of religious bigotry!
It is typical of a class society where those who benefit from the commonwealth use the dregs of society to divert the attention of the masses from their selfish indulgences. It is similar to what plays out in Nigeria where the upper class create situations that benefit themselves and use primordial sentiments to divert attention from their escapades. They readily find accomplices in ethnic chauvinists and religious bigots.
Jeffery Sachs put it succinctly in his reaction to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol: “Stoking mob violence against people of colour is typically how rich whites channel poor whites’ grievances away from themselves. Far from being a specifically Trumpian tactic, it is the oldest trick in the American political playbook. Want to pass a regressive tax cut for the rich? Just tell economically struggling whites that blacks, Muslims, and immigrants are coming to impose socialism.
With this Trump act, it would be difficult for the United States to continue to act as the global democracy police with a straight face. It may have been able to rally round its strong institutions to arrest what would have been a very dangerous slide in its democratic process, but that a threatening situation happened at all, will remain a dark chapter in its democratic history. It is then left for the authorities concerned to watch out for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on January 20 as Trump may not have much to lose if he puts up another act to end it all.