A dark day for America

There are times when we, as human beings, question what we’re seeing with our very own eyes. We perhaps doubt that what we’re witnessing is actually what we are witnessing. Could it be an illusion, a trick, a mirage? Wednesday, Jan. 6, was such a day, when thousands of agitated protesters, all riled up from a Stop the Steal rally led by President Donald J. Trump moments earlier, marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to where Congress meets, and when confronted by a weak Capitol Police force, scaled the building, shattered windows and busted down doors to enter the U.S. Capitol before storming its hallowed halls.

Inside, Congress was attempting to certify the Electoral College vote count that had fairly elected former Vice President Joseph Biden as our next president of the United States. A number of Republicans in the House and Senate — pressured by Trump — had promised to vote against Biden’s victory, though it would have done little to change the end result. 

As the process was getting underway, the Capitol Building was being stormed by a mob of thousands, some armed, all belligerent, easily overtaking the Capitol Police. Members of Congress were swiftly swept away to secure secret locations, along with the Electoral College ballots, thanks to quick-thinking Senate staffers. 

During the hours-long riot, chaos ensued. In the end, five people died.

The president is blamed for inciting the riot. He told his supporters to “fight like hell” at his rally or they would no longer have a country to fight for — certainly words encouraging action. 

Congress is now calling for Trump to be impeached for an unprecedented second time during his presidency, despite there being roughly a week left in his term. On Monday, Jan. 11, the U.S. House of Representatives released a resolution to impeach the president, charging him with one article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection. The House expects to vote this week. 

Many lawmakers believe he is a danger, especially with access to the nuclear codes. Others simply want to prevent him from ever serving in federal office again. There’s also the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge until Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

And the Justice Department has not ruled out the possibility of charging the president for instigating the insurrection. 

“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” said Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, last week.

The New York State Bar Association, meanwhile, is seeking to remove Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who addressed the thousands at the White House during the rally repeating Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud in both the presidential election and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs.

“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we’re right a lot of them will go to jail,” Giuliani said to the protesters before bellowing his now infamous fatal battle cry: “Let’s have trial by combat.”

 Citing its bylaws, which state that “no person who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States… shall be a member of the Association,” the legal group described the attack on the Capitol as “nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power.”

It should also be noted that Trump has reportedly been looking into the idea of pardoning himself, which has never been done before and no one seems sure of exactly how it would work, or if it would ultimately protect the president.

But instead of thinking about protecting himself, why wasn’t Trump thinking about protecting the Capitol, our lawmakers or our very democracy last Wednesday? Certainly we need to examine why the Capitol Police response was so light. 

According to The Military Times, “Hundreds of National Guard troops were posted in the streets of Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon, but there was little they could do to respond as pro-Trump rioters overran the Capitol.”

It added that “the National Guard only shows up to D.C. when they’ve been invited, and the Capitol Police did not extend that invitation until after the breach,” noting that “The several hundred troops posted around downtown D.C. on Wednesday were there at the request of [D.C.] Mayor Muriel Bowser, to support local police.”

How law enforcement treated protesters is also being questioned, especially in comparison to how police treated Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in 2020. It was the frequent cases of Black people killed by white cops that triggered the BLM protests in the first place, raising questions about the need for police reform and a call for social justice.

But beyond all of those issues is one truly troubling thought: The sitting U.S. president has damaged what the United States represents to the world. We are a beacon of democracy. We represent what all free nations strive to become. President Trump’s words of hate, untruths and manipulation have done more harm in a single day, in a single hour (and let’s face it, in four years) than one could have ever imagined possible. Our reputation around the world has been permanently marred. After nearly 250 years of incredible history, the United States of America is no longer the ideal of what a democracy can be — it is now an example of what can go wrong — thanks to an egomaniacal, megalomaniac, power-obsessed man who cares more about himself than his country. 

To be fair, Trump has done some things that benefitted America during his term, but his good deeds are by far underwhelming compared to the havoc he’s brought on to his office, this nation and now, the world. 

Jan. 20 can’t come soon enough.

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