Like many, I am appalled by what happened this week as a mob of Americans stormed past barricades and ransacked the US Capitol, resulting in a delay in the certification of the election and, tragically, the loss of at least four American lives.
I am baffled at the spin I see on conservative news outlets and social media, with people calling this mob “patriots” one moment and “paid Antifa members” the next. The mental gymnastics people must go through with all of these contradictory messages can only result in fear, distrust, and anger.
But those emotions do no good when it comes to making any sort of sound decision moving forward. I’m a teacher of rhetoric; that’s what I know. So I call on myself and all of us to consider adopting the mantra of my writing and research classroom: follow the evidence.
Let’s follow the past four years of evidence, and we’ll find a president who has worked diligently to divide us. The evidence abounds, but I’ll choose a few examples that seem most pertinent to what happened at the Capitol days ago.
In order for a president to incite the kind of act we saw yesterday, he has to convince his followers that he is the only person they can trust. There is little better way to do that than to attack the media as “fake news,” one of the president’s favorite Trumpisms and the issue I would argue has the darkest motives of his presidency.
Before his televised interview in 2016 with CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, who questioned him about why he was still harping on about “fake news” even after his election victory, Trump revealed that his actions were intentional, telling Stahl that “I do it to discredit you all…so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” Taking in the events of the 6th, I couldn’t help but come back to this line as I watched the Capitol rioters who, unmasked and exuberant, took selfies with the people’s vandalized property, stole sensitive information from and left threatening notes to our elected officials, and did so with the same confidence that their charismatic leader did the day he openly admitted to misleading the American people about the free press.
Continuing down the path of evidence, let’s consider the president’s own remarks directly before the event. If we look at a number of public comments in the weeks leading up to January 6th, it seems Trump knew exactly what would transpire and worked actively to incite the crowd to violence, calling on them to “march down Pennsylvania Avenue” because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” Or if that’s not enough, consider his tweet after the riot where he praised these “patriots” and implored them to “remember this day.”
I’ll end with what I find to be the most disturbing evidence of all–the picture of a makeshift gallows on the lawn of the Capitol. In an interview with NPR’s, Hannah Allam, one rioter called for “the people in this house who stole this election from us [to hang] from a gallow out here in this lawn for the whole world to see so it never happens again.” This man and many like him are the ones the president called “patriots” this past week. What more evidence do we need that this was intended to be an act of insurrection–a coup spurred on by the president to disrupt the electoral process.
The evidence leads to a simple conclusion: the current president is no longer fit for office. Not for two weeks. Not for two days. Not for two hours. His cabinet should invoke the 25th amendment and remove him immediately because the evidence speaks for itself–his very presence in the most powerful seat in the land is a blatant national security risk.
It’s time for logic and reason to trump anger and violence. Instead of a revolution of enraged mobsters, we need a revolution of critical thinkers.