Barbarians at the Gates

Yesterday in Washington D.C., as Congress convened to certify the Electoral College vote for President of the United States, supporters of President Donald Trump held a rally to protest what many have seen as a fraudulent and stolen election. Following a speech by the President himself thousands of Americans marched to the Capitol building. Through the course of events, a number of supporters broke through lax security and made their way into the Capitol building itself, forcing Congress and Vice President Pence into lockdown and delaying the certification until early this morning. It was an ugly scene, with one female Trump supporter shot and killed by police in the mayhem. Immediately the violence was denounced with some labeling the protestors as terrorists and others calling for President Trump’s immediate resignation or deposal. The most common word I heard thrown around however was the word “sad.” A sad day for America, indeed, but not for the reasons which they would want you to believe. 

This was a sad day in America because this action was the last gasp of air for millions of Americans across the country for whom President Donald Trump stood as the totem for their frustration, grief, and hope for reprieve. Amidst a crushing global economy that has devastated the middle class, an opioid epidemic that has taken the lives of thousands of our citizens, and the recent COVID pandemic that our government at all levels has used as justification for overreach, supporters of Donald Trump saw the potential for four more years of breathing room stolen away in the middle of the night. 

Whether the election fraud was real or significant enough to change the outcome isn’t the point of the matter. The point is that when discrepancies were noted, our ruling class and the media who propagandize for them covered their eyes, stuck their fingers in their ears, and yelled “debunked!” at the top of their lungs while judges across the country dismissed many court cases before they even bothered to examine any evidence. Again, I don’t know if the fraud was real or would have made a difference, but the refusal of our government to even acknowledge the concerns of millions of its citizens is a theme that is consistent with the spiritual force that brought Donald Trump to power. 

This spiritual force of Donald Trump supporters is made up of people who feel as though they have been left behind. They are the mostly white lower and middle class Americans who populate the landmass that exists between the East and West Coasts of the United States. They are the descendants of people who immigrated from Europe in centuries past to become a part of a project that once stood for liberty and opportunity for all. Of course America’s history was never perfect, but the potential for success through self-determination was always there for these people, and now, it feels as though it is not. 

I care about these people because they are my people. I am an Ohioan, from a small rural town in the northeast. Northeast Ohio, like most of the rust belt, was once a booming manufacturing and steel hub with plenty of jobs for those who would work them. Most of those jobs are now gone, outsourced overseas for lower wages and a higher profit margin for shareholders. Nothing has yet to replace them. 

I was fortunate enough to escape. Blessed to be born to a loving family, despite our lack of wealth my parents worked hard to provide our family and stressed the importance of getting an education. Through a combination of hard work and an athletic scholarship, I put myself through college. Through my degree I was able to become a commissioned officer in the United States Army and served for nearly six years with two deployments leading Infantrymen in Afghanistan. Following a combat injury I was forced to retire early, but the skills I gained coupled with my education allowed me to have success in the civilian world. My wife and I both have good corporate jobs and are able to comfortably raise our family in a nice suburb of Ohio’s capital city, where the economy is much better than the rest of the state. 

But outside of here, back home and in similar places like home, things are not as easy for those who remain. I have not read or watched Hillbilly Elegy yet, but it appears to be an accurate representation of a similar world. 

For one, an opioid epidemic has ripped through many communities and thousands have died from drug overdoses. Several years ago, a girl with whom I went to high school got caught up in this mess. A few houses down from my grandparent’s house, the girl’s father shot and killed her boyfriend in self-defense. Drugs were apparently involved. Several months later, she overdosed and died, leaving behind a little boy with no mother or father. If you think our government cares about this crisis, answer me why during my time in Afghanistan we ignored thousands of acres of poppy fields, where most of the world’s opium is produced and eventually makes it way to America. Tell me why we didn’t burn down those fields and teach the Afghans to plant something productive. To some, the answer is that the government doesn’t care about the people whose lives will be affected. 

To some, what the government cares about is maintaining its power. One way to do that is through changing the electorate. By bringing in immigrants, politicians can not only drive down labor costs for their financial donors but can simultaneously create voting blocs that are beholden to the rulers who helped bring them in. This is why immigration is such a huge issue to Trump supporters. As jobs are being outsourced, workers are being insourced at the expense of the people already living here. Our tax dollars are sent overseas to fund foreign nations while our own people go without. Then, when Americans object, accusations of racism and xenophobia are laid on the table, furthering the divide. 

What we saw yesterday in our nation’s capital was not only sad, but embarrassing and shameful. We cannot condone this type of violence in our political system, but we must use this moment to step back and realize that something is very broken in our country. Almost 75 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and while only a small number of his supporters were involved in yesterday’s chaos, almost half of the electorate believed in his cause enough to cast their ballots for him. 

President Trump is a political outsider and anti-establishment figurehead who wasn’t supposed to win in the first place. Enthusiasm for his leadership means that millions of American’s are dissatisfied with the trajectory of our country and a government that places the interests of Americans at the bottom of its list of priorities. Yet despite Trump’s loss in his bid for a second term, the spirit of the displaced population that he represented will still yearn for leadership and representation. Who will give it to them? 

During yesterday’s protest, a Trump supporter wearing Buffalo-horned headgear, face-paint, and tan sweatpants stood at the dais of the United States Senate chamber and victoriously flexed his left-bicep for the cameras. It brought to mind images of neoclassical paintings of Gothic barbarians tearing down the statues of Ancient Rome. In 452 AD, as Attila the Hun’s armies descended on the eternal city, Pope Leo I rode out to meet them. By some miracle, he convinced the warlord to turn around and go elsewhere. Yesterday, as disgruntled Americans stormed the Capitol, our leadership hid in the basement. Clearly our current political elite lacks the fortitude to defend this once great nation and its people. With President Trump out of the picture, a new leader will arise. The question is, will it be a bold emissary of a dignified state riding out to meet the horde? Or the horned barbarian from outside the city walls, seeking justice for a displaced people?

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