The Capitol Insurrection: Trump Supporters Confuse Patriotism with Treason
Amanda Edge ‘22 and Catherine Onorato ‘22
In 2016, millions of Americans were devastated by Trump’s ascendence to the presidency. Over the course of the following four years, Trump would go on to tarnish our international reputation, sow division, preach hate, and spread lies, while his loyal supporters continued to blindly follow his lead. After mishandling a virus that has claimed over 468,000 lives due to his previous dismantling of the necessary infrastructure to deal with such an event, fumbling an economy that was once robust, dismantling public services such as healthcare, and making the line in the sand ever so clear between the white race and everyone else, Donald Trump hatched a last-ditch effort to ensure himself a lasting legacy as the worst President in United States history: spread misinformation that the results of the 2020 Presidential election were rigged and the election had been stolen from the Trump administration.
This decision of President Trump to lead a rally in order to “#stopthesteal,” during which he directed his supporters to go to the Capitol, was a catalyst for what has come to be known as one of America’s darkest days. The insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, was an absolute devastation, not only to Americans but to believers in democracy. These events spoke volumes to where our country stands after four years of Donald Trump at the helm.
There are many layers to unpack when discussing how disturbing the events that took place during the insurrection were. From a surface level, the idea that self-proclaimed ‘patriots’ would break into America’s most sacred building to disrupt the democratic process, is troublesome alone. Additionally, the responses of the Capitol Police, the conservative media and public, and President Trump himself were off-putting as well. We spoke with Callie Heimbach ‘21 who said that “I think the first thing I think of is, you would think that an event like that would kind of serve as a 9/11 and be a catalyst for the two parties to come together and look internally and say look we have a huge problem with misinformation and just hate in this country and we need to fix it.”
Callie’s point of comparing the insurrection to 9/11 is one hundred percent accurate. From an unbiased perspective, the attacks on the United States Capitol were acts of terrorism. Domestic terrorism, but terrorism nonetheless. Additionally, following 9/11, our country grew to be more unified than ever and had a strong sense of what America was built on. This reaction did not translate to the recent attack on our country. This is unfortunate, as Callie points out, because “our generation 10, 20, 30 years from now are going to be the leaders in Washington, and we won’t have had that example of bipartisan cooperation, we’ve only had the example of our leaders calling each other names and thinking that politics is an adversarial zero-sum game which is really sad and really scary to think about.”
We can compare the response from the police and the conservative media from the insurrection to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer for a concrete, explicit example of how white privilege manifests itself in society today. In June, we saw peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors being tear-gassed while fighting for human rights, then in January, those same police officers peacefully ushering out intruders from the Senate floor. Make no mistake. Had the insurrectionists been people of color, there would have been a massacre. Callie agreed, saying “it is so obvious that those protests were so peaceful and they were met with violence that was not appropriate and it is such a stark contrast and I don't think you can look at the way the insurrectionists were being treated and some of them were being helped out of the Capitol and say that bias wasn't a factor and like obviously what comes to mind first and foremost is white privilege.”
As stated previously, these attacks were an expression of Trump’s discontentment with the election results when he lost. Since he simply could not fathom the idea that he lost the election fairly, he deployed his followers to ‘win him back the presidency’. Furthermore, Callie noted that “I think that the Trump administration, they’re not stupid they have a lot of smart legal minds working for them and they know that there wasn’t any substantiated case for voter fraud and they chose to ignore the truth and continue to spread lies and misinformation that fueled thousands of people to think that the election was being stolen and their country was being stolen from them… so I think he is very much culpable for the events at the Capitol.” When asked if Donald Trump should be convicted of inciting insurrection, Callid responded: “I think that encouraging an insurrection does qualify for, the official language would be ‘high crimes’ in the constitution so I do think he should be convicted just to set a precedent of even if you’re in your last few weeks of office you’re still accountable to a greater power and I think to preserve the sanctity of the presidency if we have an executive branch that just becomes about stoking division or uplifting that one person. I think he's very much inspired a cult of personality, we can't have that it's obviously a threat to our democracy so I do think he should be convicted, but unfortunately, I don't think he will be, which I do think also demonstrates that we’re in an era of extreme partisanship and a very party over country mindset.”
Moreover, the events at the Capitol on January 6, exposed the wounds of our country that have been festering below the surface for the past four years. How do we emerge from this, do we treat it with care and give it time to heal, or do we leave it be and encourage infection?