by David Atwood, former President of HPJC
We would be remiss to just look at Donald Trump and the rioters who invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump was obviously the match that lit the fire, but several other factors led to the conflagration.
First, the Republican Party allowed an unqualified man like Trump to become its candidate for President. Political parties should always pick someone who cares deeply about the citizens of the nation and the welfare of the nation itself. Trump obviously did not meet this criteria. And then many Republicans supported Trump when his egregious behavior became obvious as President, as when they refused to support his impeachment. Why did they do this? I think it was because of their own desire for power and money. They put their own interests before the interests of the American people and the nation itself.
And why did so many people blindly follow Trump? I believe that there are several factors that contributed to this. First, the divide between the rich and poor in the United States has increased significantly during the past 40 years. One factor contributing to this increase is unbridled capitalism. The “trickle down economics” of Ronald Reagan has not worked for millions of Americans. Also, there has been a concerted effort to destroy labor unions. The result is that there are millions of people who live in poverty or near poverty. Trump’s false promises of “America First” appealed to these people who felt disenfranchised from the American dream of prosperity.
Another reason why many people followed Trump is that millions of Americans are clearly uneducated about the importance of democracy. They are also uneducated about world history and the destructive effects of autocratic leaders like Hitler and Mussolini. They did not know or care that Trump’s autocratic behavior could lead to the destruction of America.
A third factor is that racism is still is a strong force in American society and politics. It exists in local communities, in churches, in police departments and in the highest levels of government. This is also, to a certain extent, an education problem – not only book learning, but experiential learning – opportunities to experience and appreciate the beauty and wisdom of people of different races, religions and nationalities.
A fourth factor leading to January 6 is the role of certain faith leaders who misled their congregations by saying the Trump was some sort of a savior sent by God, while in fact, Trump was just the opposite. Why would these faith leaders do this? In some cases, I believe it was to increase their own power and wealth. In other cases, it was to promote certain issues like overturning Roe vs. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court. Many Christian faith leaders seem to totally ignore the teaching of Jesus about lifting up the poor and downtrodden in society.
To summarize, the United States has a long way to go to prevent another January 6 uprising. Political leaders who are primarily interested in their own power and wealth must be voted out of office. We must make major progress in the education of our children, including advanced education. Economic disparities must be strongly addressed – unbridled capitalism must be reigned in. Stronger efforts must be made to address the long-standing racism in our nation. Finally, faith leaders who support Trump and what he stands for must be strongly rebuked by other faith leaders who promote the common good of the American people.