At the end of the taxing year of 2020, Americans everywhere yearned for respite from the chaos of the world around them. Denizens of this planet looked upward, hoping that 2021 would be a better year. Unfortunately, the year is not off to a great start here in the United States.
On Jan. 6, during the officiating process for the electoral votes by Congress, then-President Trump held a rally at the Ellipse park in Washington D.C. Trump addressed his supporters, who numbered among the thousands, repeating claims about the falseness of the results of the election, and reportedly calling for the crowd to march down to the United States Capitol to protest the counting of the votes.
“From my understanding, President Trump was giving a speech to his constituency,” said FACS teacher Sterling Whipple, “and he was calling for them to march peacefully down to the Capitol building to protest the electoral college… the group did go down to the capitol building, and became violent.”
In just a few hours, the rioters breached the Capitol and caused extensive damage to both the interior and the exterior of the building. Five people also died in the riot. The rioters called their protest the “March to Save America,” but unfortunately that is not what it was.
One of the most shocking outcomes of this event was the subsequent second impeachment of Donald Trump by the House, and the many allegations made against him for “inciting insurrection.” Hundreds of politicians and world leaders criticized Trump for his actions that day, although the influence he had on the violence in the protest is still unclear.
“President Trump addressed [the rioters] early on,” said NS history teacher Tyler Bailey. “People are saying he egged them on. I’m not sure if he egged them on, but he certainly didn’t tell them to stop.”
Others take a more definite point of view, condemning Trump for inciting the riots intentionally and maliciously.
“Our democracy currently is in really great jeopardy,” said senior Adam Cox. “Trump has managed to convince a lot of his voter base that the only reliable source of information is himself, and anything that agrees with what he’s saying, which is very dangerous, because then you can manipulate them whatever way you want…it’s no longer a statement, it’s a symbol for a group… it feels like they’re not even fighting for anything, they’re just following blindly.”
Some argue that the supporters became violent on their own, and all Trump was doing was trying to prove that the election was false.
“People, the American people,” said sophomore Darld Swapp, “there’s a lot of mad ones out there. And I could see a riot just going right in front of the White House. I’m just getting tired of it, I don’t know… in school now, they say politics isn’t part of life, but it is. Like these masks.”
The equation of politics with anger and riots is an unfortunate one, but an astute observation as well. So much of politics in America are fueled by powerful emotions like fear, anger, and selfishness. That is not necessarily a good thing.
“My general reaction to this is my same reaction to the summer BLM riots,” Whipple said. “I love and promote the right granted in the Constitution to peaceably assemble and be heard by our government. We need that. We need people to stand up to the government and tell them no more, in whatever it is that needs to be done away with.
“However, my other reaction is, you can stand up for what is right and be nice about it. I don’t believe in rioting. I don’t. I think it is wrong to riot, and I think the Constitution makes that pretty clear when it says to peaceably assemble. To burn down buildings or smash in windows, to attack police officers… is not peaceful. And that transitions out of being what I believe is Constitutionally protected, and into being criminal.”
Indeed, in recent months, protests and expression of opinions by the people have been too often made violent and become riots. It leaves one to wonder, where will it stop?
“We’ve seen a lot of protests over the years,” Bailey said. “For whatever reason people are protesting, they are not allowed to damage property. Regardless of what you’re protesting, regardless of how passionate you are, you are breaking the law if you are damaging property.”
Joseph de Maistre, an 18th-century philosopher and politician, knew what he was talking about when he said: “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”
Regrettably, America does not seem to deserve a very good government right now.
“The riot was absolutely his [Trump’s] fault,” said Cox, “but it’s also the fault of his colleagues for being complicit with it… it’s too late now. They should’ve come out and said something sooner, before all this happened.”
Over 80 separate countries and world leaders condemned the events of Jan. 6, largely blaming Trump for what happened, but also expressing shock and distaste for an event such as this occurring in the heart of the greatest democracy of the world.
“The United States, we’ve always kind of carried this flag of freedom and democracy,” said Bailey. “We don’t need fences and chains and guns; as Americans, we do the right thing and we hold things sacred, and other countries don’t… You look at what’s happening, and you wonder if we are still the beacon of democracy and hope.”
So, with Joe Biden inaugurated as the new 46th President, the world is watching the United States closely, for what happens next will determine if this great nation does, in fact, deserve a democracy just as great.