Op-Ed: America’s Worst-Case Scenario Is Here. What Will You Do About It?

This tragedy was predictable and preventable.

Pro-Trump supporters riot and breach the Capitol on January 6, 2021. | Getty Images
Pro-Trump supporters riot and breach the Capitol on January 6, 2021. | Getty Images

We are living our worst-case scenario: the nightmare we feared when Donald Trump was elected. A deadly pandemic is raging out of control, which his decisions and denial have made worse. On top of that, last week, he incited a deadly riot over a sore election loss.

I am angry.

This unnecessary tragedy was predicted by journalists, politicians, experts on disinformation and domestic terrorism, and anyone with a pulse who could see the extreme damage that Trump’s lies, fearmongering, and conspiracy theories have inflicted on our democracy over the past five years.

I am so unbearably angry because people — Trump supporters and a Capitol Police officer — died last week, and this tragedy was preventable. Trumpism, inspired by the self-proclaimed “law and order” president, led a mob of his supporters to viciously beat a police officer on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with an American flag.

I’m angry because so many in the Blue Lives Matter crowd are either silent on the subject of dead police, or they’re perniciously trying to defend what happened and absolve themselves of responsibility. 

The armed takeover of the Michigan State Capitol last May was a warning of what was to come. A blueprint for more chaos. Governor Whitmer tried to warn us about it, including in interviews with NowThis.

I’m angry because Hillary Clinton gave a speech in 2016 about the connections of the Trump camp to white supremacists, and not enough people listened. I’m angry because the legacy of white supremacy in this country put Trump in office despite Clinton winning the popular vote. 

I’m angry because not enough people in the media took the threat of Trump seriously, and those of who did were called alarmist, sensationalist, biased, and partisan. I’m angry because many of the people who ignored the threat still have their jobs, in leadership positions in newsrooms, making decisions about coverage that millions of people see. They still have their platforms. I am thankful that I have this one.

I’m angry because we only ever want to protect ourselves as well as our neighbors, even the ones who threaten our lives — Black and brown lives — and seek to divide us. Instead, we get blamed for being divisive and are chastised about so-called “unity.”

I’m angry because even though crowds of aggressive, armed people were captured on video chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” at one point, following the president’s tweet that threw his own vice president under the bus, Pence remains the president’s loyal foot soldier.

I’m angry because even at the height of the riot, when members of Congress were hiding away in a room together from people who had guns, pipe bombs, zip ties, and a thirst for blood, Republican members of Congress put their colleagues at further risk by refusing to wear masks that Democrats were handing out. At least three members have since tested positive for COVID-19. I’m angry because even when white supremacy rears its ugly head against its own, it’s still Black and brown people who pay the price.

I’m angry because my friends, my own industry colleagues, were put in the position of documenting a violent riot on a day that was supposed to be historic for the continuation of U.S. democracy. After the president directed his supporters to march on the Capitol, saying, “If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore,” I watched in horror as video after video was posted online, showing an angry mob beating at the doors and windows of a building where I have reported from countless times and feeling terrified for everyone’s safety. I saw the noose the mob fashioned out of a cameraperson’s equipment and cables, the “murder the media” graffiti written on a door, and I thought, they want to hurt us.

As a journalist, they hate me for doing my job. As a Brown woman, even though I was born and raised here, they don’t want me here, and they will go to this incredible length to try to invalidate our votes.

Even after the events and images of January 6 horrified the country and the world, 147 Republicans — eight senators and 139 representatives — still voted to overturn the results of a free and fair election in the United States. A not-insignificant number. 

We know their names. We know when they’re up for re-election.

I’m angry because I and others have been saying for years that both parties are not the same, both sides are not the same, and too few people wanted to confront that truth. People were too lazy to confront that truth.

I’m angry because this is my country, which I love, and I have been told over and over again to get out. I’m angry because when Black and brown women in Congress stand up to a president who tells them the same thing — to get out — they get death threats. So do I, and so do too many people who are just trying to do their jobs and tell the truth about this country. 

I’m angry because we have spent years watching Black and brown bodies beat down, shot, and killed by police, and these white rioters were allowed to leave the Capitol, and in many cases, fly home. Many of them have since been arrested in their home states. It’s a start. But will people paying attention to their arrests pay attention when they’re actually tried and sentenced? 

I’m angry because our institutions of democracy came this close to failing.

Here is a reason for hope: Joe Biden will take office on January 20th. 81.2 million Americans voted for him and said no to a fascist. But more people will die between now and then — either from COVID-19 or in more planned extremist plots that the FBI is already warning the public about. Biden’s presence in the Oval Office doesn’t mean our problems are over. 

There are bright spots of movement toward accountability. 

The House moved quickly to impeach Trump a second time after giving Pence a failed ultimatum to do the right thing: invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Donald Trump is now the only president in 244 years of American history to be impeached twice, and he deserves to be. 

Both the House and the Senate have introduced or drafted resolutions to potentially expel people from Congress who supported the president’s attempt to overthrow democracy even after blood was shed at the Capitol. At least one state Republican lawmaker who livestreamed himself breaking into the Capitol has been arrested and then resigned. Police departments across the country are investigating members of their own forces who took part in an insurrection. 

The work will take time. It requires unceasing public support. If you are feeling as angry as I am, or fearful or disappointed, hold on to this feeling and allow it to motivate you — to call for accountability, demand better of your elected officials, talk to your friends and family about the conspiracies they believe and share on Facebook, and promote facts and truth over disinformation. To not slide back into the comfort of daily life and insulate yourself from the pain. To not pretend like this isn’t happening in your country, on your doorstep. To feel it. To do more. That is our only hope of limiting the possibility of this ever happening again. 

Inaction breeds inevitability. Apathy breeds contempt. 

Don’t be apathetic. Do more.

This op-ed was edited by Natalie Daher.