Events of the last two months following the 3 November general election show that America is a deeply divided nation.
Though denied a second term, President Donald Trump received the second highest number of votes in the history of the United States of America and his constituency is growing.
When Congress was meeting on 6 January to certify Joe Biden’s victory, Trump and his advisers like Rudy Giuliani who considers it a “stolen election,” were inciting their supporters to march on Capitol Hill. Giuliani advised them to engage in ‘combat’.
After they had stormed the House and caused five deaths, Vice President Mike Pence who was presiding over the session condemned the violent mob but said nothing about Trump who incited them.
“The 75 million great American patriots who voted for me will have a giant voice long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form. I love them all,” Trump tweeted before Twitter permanently suspended him as his posts “pose the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Trump’s constituency comprises Bible-thumpers, white supremacists, ‘Uncle Toms’ of the Afro-Americans and the less-educated and less-skilled who feel left behind in this era of globalisation and high technology.
Hours before violence broke out on Capitol Hill, Trump addressed his supporters outside the White House. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats, which is what they are doing, and stolen by fake news media. We will never give up and never concede,” Trump said.
The attack on Capitol Hill has brought to the surface the powerful ideological and theological currents of American politics that stay just under the surface.
The emblems carried by the rioters and the juxtaposition of Christian and white supremacist symbols, ‘Jesus 2020’ flags that imitated the Trump flags, crosses and “Jesus Saves’ symbols bear witness to these forces.
Some of the participants blew shofars, Jewish ritual horns, as they circled the Capitol, re-enacting the siege of Jericho by the Israelites described in the Bible. Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Jewish congregation in Washington DC was not amused. He wondered how many in the Jericho March knew that history.
Etched on a door along the path of the rioters was a message “Murder the Media,” that seemed an extension of a presidency marked by anti-press vituperation. All through the afternoon of 6 January rioters were seen kicking, toppling, stomping and snatching equipment of media persons and trying to burn them.
The US Press Freedom Tracker is investigating several instances of assaults, equipment damage and other mayhem caused by the mob. That more than 150 elected representatives at the joint session voted against certification of Biden’s victory only confirms how divided America is today. The schism is widening and it is the unity of America that may soon be at risk.