Yesterday, January 6, became another day that Franklin D. Roosevelt would have declared “a day that will live in infamy.” At the urging of outgoing President Donald J. Trump, thousands of his most dedicated base supporters gathered to protest the results of the 2020 election. What should have been a peaceful demonstration turned into chaos as out-of-control Trumpsters stormed the Capitol in Washington, D. C. in a destructive and deadly show of anger. It was a spectacle that I, for one, would never have believed could happen in America. But it did. There is no denying that it happened. There is no denying that property was destroyed. There is no denying that offices that should be off-limits to any except the officials to whom they belong were violated. There is no denying that at least one woman died as a result of the out-of-control melee.
There is so much that stinks about this whole thing. One of the first questions raised had to do with the total lack of security. How were all these people able to brazenly stroll into the nation’s capital, casually walk the halls, enter the offices of our elected officials, and even force those officials to hunker down for their lives as the vandals basically took over the premises? Something is simply not right, especially when it was reported that the event was planned weeks in advance. There was plenty of time to have adequate protective security in place. But there is no denying that security did not show up until it was too late to do anything but remove the mob that had already done the damage.
I place the majority of the blame on the President. I wish I knew how to lift one phrase from the musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” It’s in the part where the Pharisees have concluded that Jesus is a threat to them and begin plotting his death. Why do they want to kill him? In that one phrase, they sum up their main motive: “He … is … DAAAN-ger-ous!” If I could take just that one phrase, I would combine it with a photo of Donald Trump. Don’t tell me that he didn’t know what he was doing when he called his minions to gather at the Capitol, or that he didn’t think it would erupt into chaos. A fire has been burning ever since he lost the election in November, and all he had to do was throw some gasoline on it. We saw what happened yesterday as a result.
Once he was pressured into sending out a statement calling on his people to leave in peace, he did so in one of the most pathetic videos that could have been broadcast. Not once did he criticize the mob for the destruction they caused to one of the most central edifices of our nation. Instead, he said, “I love you all.” Not once did he offer any kind of statement to hold them accountable for their actions. Instead he put his stamp of approval on it by reminding them that (in his opinion) he lost the election because it was rigged, which only justified the assault in the minds of those who were there. And then, the whimpering tone of voice he took when he said it was time for everyone to go home, to leave in peace, sounded more like a wimpy mother trying to correct a bratty kid without raising her voice. “Be good little children, now, and go home. It’s time to go home now.”
Some people would point to all this and claim it happened because of Trump’s lack of leadership. But I see it quite differently. I think Trump is a strong leader. I also believe he is a dangerous leader who is able to grab hold of the minds of people willing to allow him to convince them of how right he is and, consequently, get them to do his bidding. Yesterday was a frighteningly stark example of how that works. “He is dangerous!”
I fear for the next two weeks that Trump is still in power. He has already allowed unimaginable chaos to run rampant. While the Capitol is not exactly holy space, there is something sacred about it, and that sacredness has now been desecrated. We can’t go back and “un-desecrate” what’s been done. The day will live in its own infamy. A sad and frightening way to begin a year that we had hoped would be at least somewhat better than the one we just endured.
One quick note in closing: I use The Upper Room Disciplines as part of my daily morning devotional reading. I’m not sure exactly what the lead time is for these publications, but my 2021 copy arrived last October. It did not escape my notice this morning that the topic for this week is “God’s Presence amid Chaos.” Could there be anything more timely?
We need to acknowledge the evil that we see happening, but even more importantly, to acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of it all. Human beings may lose control, but God’s got this. God is in control. It’s all going to work out fine.
It has to.