When a Trump supporter drags a large wooden cross around the Captol Mall as one did during the “Save America” Rally, I can understand the desire to explain what we saw on January 6th as having been influenced by Christianity. Christian iconography was all around on that day of the Capitol siege. It’s easy to blame a faith system because it doesn’t use empirical evidence to come to a conclusion. Faith relies on evidence of things unseen. One has to believe first before physical evidence will be revealed – if ever. But Trump followers live on a steady fact-free diet. They believe Trump’s claims that there was rampant election fraud singling out his race from all of the others that were conducted on November 3, 2020. The success of Republicans who performed better than Trump on the very same ballots was ignored. But faith wasn’t the motivating factor on that Wednesday in Washington. It wasn’t even the abundance of false evidence that he repeated on a daily basis to support his assertions and emboldened his followers. It was their willingness to ignore all of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary for the promise of more cruelty, more racist, and incompetent policies supported by the President of the United States.
Devotion to Christian beliefs was not what moved the white Evangelicals, Catholic or Protestant Christians who make up Trump’s most ardent followers. They would have to ignore the major tenets of the faith, the Ten Commandments. A Christian would have to refute all of its instruction on personal conduct to behave in the manner we saw on display in Washington D.C. This indictment includes the politicians who perpetuated the lie that this election was stolen from Trump. You cannot lie, carry weapons, threaten to hang or murder someone, and align those actions with the adoption of Commandment #6, “Thou shall not kill,” or Commandment #9, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” In fact, the very act of being a follower of Trump, his mendacity, bigotry, cruelty, and general amoral behavior is in direct opposition to the life of a person of faith. That calls for a great deal of self-delusion.
The real motivator is race. More specifically, racial resentment and its handmaiden, white nationalism. That is the true”religion” these Trump supporters worship. White people in fear of a Black planet where they can’t get away with everything or have their way on every topic. They don’t want to share power. It’s called “white privilege” for a reason.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021, was a chance for all of America to see the America Black people have known since 1865. It pulled the curtain back o an America violently defending white supremacy. This is the go-to strategy every time a significant group of white people believes their free will and unbridled influence on everything is being constrained. That is why Reconstruction gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan. It’s why Black soldiers returning from World War I gave rise to race riots in the country. From the Red Summer of 1919 through the Race Massacre of Tulsa, OK, in 1921, incited a new wave of racial intimidation and terrorism. White people took up arms to destroy Black communities, kill Black men who had been armed and trained by the United States military, and support manipulation of the law to secure white dominance in every part of life. Just as the response to the election of Barack Hussein Obama as our first Black president inspired the establishment of the Tea Party Movement, the Freedom Caucus, and the overtly racist Birther Movement. The steady rise of white grievance has been ignored in the last forty years. Trump could not have been elected without it.
So it should come as no surprise that the siege on the U.S. Capitol was following the mounting anger at the failure to overturn Georgia’s results in the 2020 election in Trump’s favor. Triggered almost on cue, the Trump “Save America” Rally turned into a riotous mob mere hours after the first Black Democrat had been elected to the Senate from the South, with the possibility of the other Georgia Senate seat flipping, all done by the record-breaking efforts of Black Georgians organizing and voting en masse. This turned Georgia – a formerly reliable Republican stronghold – into a battleground state for the first time since 1992.
The flipping of Georgia put white supremacists on edge. It inspired the rally’s crowd to fight tooth and nail to retain that political dominance, regardless of how undemocratic their tactics have to be. Trump and his followers didn’t care how obvious it was anymore. To keep their hands off the reigns of power these forces showed the nation they would ignore the most obvious examples of how chaotic this country has become.
The assault on the Capitol Building was an insane reaction to declining trends in white privilege in this country. “Declining” should be taken with a grain of salt. When you see white people of all ages, education levels, economic level, and regions of the country whipped up into a frenzy it makes far more sense to acknowledge the truth in the statement “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression.”
Here is a shortlist of the white Americans who played a role in Trump’s rally:
- Eighteen members of the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) fought to overturn the election results in Michigan and three other states. What did these states have in common? They each had significantly higher turnout from Blacks and other ethnic minority voters. What did this organization do for the Trump rally? They provided funding covering the travel costs for busloads of Trump supporters to attend the rally in D.C.
- The assembled throng included military vets, off-duty cops, state legislators, business owners, white-collar workers, medical doctors, registered nurses, college professors, teachers, Catholic nuns, and at least one Olympic Gold Medal swimmer. Many of them didn’t even vote in the November election.
- White people of all ages, education levels, economic level, and regions of the country were among the rioters.
Republicans may want to draw different conclusions about the motivations of others, but it makes far more sense to acknowledge this was Right-wing extremism at play. God was just the cloak it was wrapped in so as to make it appear differently.
- Proof that extremists have been welcomed into the center of the Republican Party? When the Republican caucus includes a) a Congressman who openly quotes Hitler, b) another brings guns to the floor of the House, and c), a third is a QAnon supporter.
- In a Guardian newspaper investigation reporters showed The Club for Growth, a conservative group focused on cutting taxes and other economic issues benefiting millionaires and billionaires, has spent $20 million supporting 42 Right-wing lawmakers who voted to invalidate Biden electoral victory.
Although it may not look like it these are the death throes of a political party that has courted madness for too many years. Crazy has become part of their brand identity. There are other examples supporting our conclusions. Case in point, the QAnon Takeover of the Republicans. It not an invasion so much as it is a slow, but steady, engulfing of the party.
Trump is not the leader of this movement. It preceded him. He was merely the empty vessel through which much smarter people saw they could finally see their Christmas list of policy changes implemented. But Trump is the reason why this more extreme, violent version of white supremacy has been injected into the political mainstream.
Since 2015 when he rode the escalator down to the lobby of Trump Tower he has positioned himself as the Savior of Whiteness. Throughout the 2016 campaign he identified the villains he was going to fight on their behalf: Mexicans, Muslims, Politically-correct Liberals, and the politicians in both parties that had sold their future away White grievance has been a core plank of the Republican Party platform since Barry Goldwater in 1964. Sixteen years later Ronald Reagan would reheat many of Goldwater’s most racist ideas. They would be presented in his attack on the government, on its assistance to it by way of reaching out to more and more white people. This is what it has always been about. This is what it has come down to. We have armed them with ridiculous amounts of weapons. We gave them a free pass every time they took the life of some Black or Brown person. For all of that, none of us are safe any longer.
We cannot allow ourselves to believe that the underlying, racist and anti-democratic impulses that allowed Trump to be elected in the first place are grounded in religion. We can no longer afford to be impressed by people who wrap themselves in God and country claiming to be the true believers in lofty ideals written on parchment paper over two centuries ago by men who didn’t live by them either. We must be willing to put in the work required to manifest equality and justice in the real world. Either all men are created equal or they are not. Either they are endowed by their Creator with such rights as Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or they were not.