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Trump’s Capitol Hill terrorists affirmed the truth: America should not be restored. It must be rebuilt

A Pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol following a rally with President Trump on Jan. 6.
A Pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol following a rally with President Trump on Jan. 6.Samuel Corum/Photographer: Samuel Corum/Getty

Donald Trump is more than an American president. He’s an American terrorist.

As armed looters tyrannized the US Capitol on Wednesday in the name of Trump, by his invitation, they reflected America’s biggest hurdle in ever building a successful democracy: white supremacy.

For the whole of his presidency, Trump has preached divisive rhetoric. He was always loading guns and readying his people for war. He said Black Lives Matter activists were disgusting and should be knocked around. He told police not to be too nice. He laughed at jokes about shooting immigrants. He told Proud Boys to stand back and stand by. And just a few weeks ago, he warned us all that Jan. 6 would be wild. He called it a protest. It was an attempted coup.


Even after the mob made its intentions clear, Trump feigned wanting the insurrectionists to go home peacefully while justifying their savagery. He continued to perpetuate the myths of voter fraud and a stolen election.

“This was a fraudulent election but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “We have to have peace. So go home, we love you and you’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You’ve seen the ways others are treated which are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”

He adores violent, armed thugs tearing up the nation’s capital and intimidating elected officials, law enforcement, and journalists alike? Of course he does. When they say “stop the steal,” they mean block the pathways to equity and the possibility of freedom.

Trump is complicit in sedition — the very thing acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen wanted to charge Black Lives Matter activists with.


According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, nearly 95% of protests against brutality and racism were nonviolent. Yet they were vilified and framed as destructive. They were met with heavily militarized law enforcement and militia alike. Will acting attorney Rosen hold Trump accountable with the same level of aggression or pretend his violent followers acted on their own?

Had Black folk showed up on Capitol Hill armed and stormed the building, they’d be dead. There would have been a militarized strategy waiting for them in D.C. But because this was a Trump rally, security was slowly reactive instead of proactive. It was not a failure of policing. It was the original function of policing in action: protecting white power. Think about it, 87 protesters were arrested for sitting peacefully on the lawn of Kentucky’s attorney general in the name of Breonna Taylor. There have only been about 45 arrests related to Trump’s calls to action since Tuesday, and 30 of them have been curfew violations.

That is not Trump’s doing. He is not the sole cause of America’s tragic truth finally tearing away the facade of freedom and hope. Some 74 million people voted for him, nearly half the country supporting his definition of patriotism and American values. We didn’t easily win the presidential election or the Georgia Senate runoffs. Those victories were the result of warring against voter suppression and supremacy. A fair election required a fight. Democracy was always under attack.


The American condition has always clung to whiteness as the symbol of citizenship in this country. When Dred Scott, who was born into slavery, sought emancipation after living in a free state in 1857, he was denied. The court decided no Black person, free or slave, could claim US citizenship.

And it’s our country’s original premise of citizenship that Trump believes in. This is why he told “Radical Left Congresswomen” like Ayanna Pressley, AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar to go back to their countries despite each of them being American. We have always had to fight for the right to stand on this ground, even though our ancestors tilled its soil.

Our country’s true perilous fight is against itself, against a nation that leaves Jacob Blake paralyzed while his shooters walk free, that raises millions in bail money for Kyle Rittenhouse, celebrated as a patriot for allegedly killing two protesters against police brutality.

The need to make whiteness an identity of status and power is sewn into the country’s foundation. Things like racial sensitivity training, critical race theory, and, you know, a fair election and true democracy, enrage a certain kind of white person. The very blue lives they said mattered so much? They fought them Wednesday. They clashed because to these Trump believers, American greatness, patriotism, godliness, and whiteness are synonymous with one another.

President Barack Obama was a threat to that definition. Trump, in all his wealthy incompetence, delivered a promise to restore it. So losing an election, losing the Senate, and not having the House -- a triple defeat -- was too big a blow.


Trump’s supporters, like him, believe they are pledging their allegiance to this country by terrorizing the Congress.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long,” Trump tweeted in the wake of chaos and bloodshed on Capitol Hill, ever supportive of his fandom. “Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever!”

So when President-elect Joe Biden said what happened today “does not represent the true America,” and that we must restore democracy because we have always been about hope and decency, it was dishonest. Only a lost country could have elected Trump.

Biden said it was all a shock. How? Trump ran on the premise of empowering white supremacists. We cannot restore what we never had. America has never been about the greater good. It has always been about power. Peace was a game of pretend so long as white people felt like they sat on top of the hierarchy and remained the face of citizenship.

Is everyone not weary? Are we not tired of acting like supremacy and brutality are functions of a few bad apples when they are the seeds from which this country was grown? Biden was right about one thing: enough is enough is enough. I want us to do what John Lewis asked us to do in his last words: Redeem the soul of our nation.


We cannot attain collective liberation, build a functioning democracy, or be this beacon of hope Biden said we are until we own up to the inhumanity and supremacy that led us to elect a terrorist as commander-in-chief.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.