The world had its eyes perched on the the U.S. Capitol as it was overrun by a militia made up of Trump supporters, who are seeking to invalidate or at least disrupt the certification of Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. As the chaos ensues, the President-Elect is choosing a different tone, by trying to talk about what America can be and what its ideals are.
“America is so much better than what we’re seeing today,” he tweeted after calling for the President to address the chaos.
“Our way is plain: It is the way of democracy — of lawfulness, and of respect — respect for each other, and for our nation. Our way is plain: It is the way of democracy — of lawfulness, and of respect — respect for each other, and for our nation,” he added in a following tweet.
Biden’s words don’t ring true to Mona Eltahawy, who rejects the premise that America is this shining beacon of light, hope and prosperity amongst the darkness. Eltahawy, a feminist author and editor-in-chief of FeministGiant.com, says the Capitol siege showcases the true spirit and colours of America — as a militia of white supremacists walked effortlessly into Capitol Hill with little resistance.
“There is this delusional confidence in this idea that America is better than anywhere else, that America is an exceptional country, that the rules and the institutions and the Constitution and the checks and balances in America are unlike anywhere else in the world. And even on the day when we saw all of those things falling apart, even on this day, Joe Biden gets up there and says they’re better than this — no, you are not,” she said.
Eltahawy, a native of Egypt lived through the Hosni Mubarak regime which lasted almost thirty years until Egyptians took to the streets to cast their autocratic leader out. She notes the attitudes and behaviour displayed by Trump over the past few weeks is something she’s seen from other authoritarian regimes who have attempted to retain their grasp on the reins of power.
“People like me who come from Egypt were warning about Trump because of the things he was saying, because of the hatred that he was whipping up. So it's no shock, and it's no surprise that it led to this, that it led to an attempted coup, that it led to insurrection,” she said.
Whether it’s admitting in its grave mistakes not only domestically which has led to the death of Black people at disproportionate rates or the genocide of Indigenous people, Eltahawy noted that abroad Americans are not held in this high regard they see themselves having.
“The United States has propped up dictatorships around the world, has staged coups around the world in countless Middle Eastern and Latin American countries. Now it's finally seeing an attempted coup, much in the way that it has orchestrated in other countries,” she said.
Eltahawy noted that in prior administrations it was easier to sell the American dream, but since the Iraq War, the invasion into Afghanistan, the coup in Bolivia and other incidents, it has become impossible for that to be seen as a reality.
“The U.S. is not a beacon of hope for other countries around the world that have been bombed or invaded or had their legitimately elected governments overthrown with the help of the U.S.,” she said.
Domestically it’s easy to point the finger at just Trump and his failings around race-relations specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, but Eltahawy notes that there is a domestic history that far exceeds Trump’s time in office. She notes the anti-black racism, military interventionism and white supremacy have long-existed in the American political system.
“Trump is a fruition of decades of white supremacy, of misogyny, of capitalism, of militarism, of the use of religion in American politics. He's kind of like the logical conclusion of all those. All of those things kind of rolled into one, and today is the day it all came to a head, “she said.
A disaster, four years in the making
The Trumps, with a lot of help from the Republicans, created an ecosystem over the past four years that built up to this moment. For the past two months, the president has been taking to social media to incite his supporters and push the false narrative that the election was stolen from him despite any credible proof. It pushed and even encouraged misinformation, criticized anyone who opposed the president, and allowed for open-threats on members of political office to become the norm.
While white insurrectionists have stormed the U.S. Capitol and gotten physical with police, there has been little repercussions. For left-wing activists, this rings deep, as many who participated in the Black Lives Matter movement were faced with retaliatory police violence and brutality. However, when a crowd of largely white males decided to attack Capitol police and cause unrest, there was not the same level of pushback by authorities.
The past four years of the Trump presidency can be encapsulated into this one moment, where the president’s most ardent followers have taken an opportunity to overwhelm the sparsely staffed Capitol Police and enter the Chambers. From outside the U.S. looking inwards there seems to be one constant theme emerging — one of disappointment.
“America will not turn back from this and it will not heal from the Trump years unless it acknowledges that this is America and that it is not better than this,” she said.
Trump’s already clouded legacy will likely be dimmed even further by the actions of the siege of Capitol Hill. For long, Americans have always sold ‘American Dream’ or an idea of American exceptionalism - which is debated due to imperialism, but on Jan. 6, 2021 it’s fair to say the sheen on United States is likely gone forever.