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A Registered Nurse reflects on the recent insurgency at Capitol Hill: Is this America?

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Millicent Mucheru is a Registered Nurse and a social justice activist who founded a non profit Medical Missions Kenya (medicalmissionskenya.org) and is a co-founder of kidsspeakup.org that promotes antiracism among children. Millicent is currently pursuing a doctoral of nursing practice.

Is this really us? A look at the fragility of democracy

For many Americans, last week’s unfathomable events where insurgents desecrated our halls of democracy in Capitol Hill didn’t come as a surprise. Something similar happened in Kenya post elections in 2007. The unrest in Kenya was caused by similar claims of a stolen election. The moment the unsuccessful candidate cried election fraud, his supporters took to the streets and turned against the Kikuyu tribe that was largely considered to be sympathetic or suspected to have voted for the opponent candidate President Mwai Kibaki. Raila Odinga, who claimed the election was rigged encouraged his supporters to attend a mass alternative inauguration ceremony a day after Mr. Kibaki was sworn in as president. These election fraud claims ignited tribalism where friends turned against friends as the extremists invaded their neighbors. There were mass killings and destroyed properties with the insurgents leaving a wake of destruction behind them. A local church where some Kikuyus were taking refuge was barricaded and burned down. In a desperate attempt to save her kid, a mother threw her infant out of the window from the burning building only to have one of the insurgents throw the infant back to the fire. The horror is indescribable, and in the end, the deaths were estimated at 1500 and another half a million displaced. During the aftermath of this election related violence, some of the politicians suspected to have incited the insurgency were tried for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court in Hague.

The Rwanda genocide in 1994 was also driven by tribalism promoted by political unrest where one tribe decided to eliminate the other tribes. Scholars estimate the deaths of the targeted minority Tutsi population to be somewhere between half a million to about 800, 000. The majority of ethnic Hutu extremists used newspapers and radio stations to spew ethnic hatred. The hate propaganda was effective in dehumanizing the Tutsi which then made it tolerable for the extremists to slaughter their perceived “enemies”. The Tutsi were referred to as cockroaches that needed to be eliminated. The events that followed was an uprising where neighbors slaughtered their neighbors and even some husbands killed their Tutsi wives in fear of being killed themselves if they did not carry out the atrocities.

And we all know what happened to Germany. Germany was one of the most progressive countries in Europe and yet, Adolf Hitler was able to spread Nazi propaganda through the utilization of cheaply made German radio stations which he had complete control. The broadcasting messages were simple, glorify Hitler and spread anti-Semitic messages. The sheer atrocities that followed still haunt us today.

But unlike Rwanda, Kenya, and Germany, President Donald Trump used social media to spew his hateful messages to his base and turn Americans against each other. Come election night, President Trump claimed election fraud even before a winner was declared when the projections weren’t in his favor. To be clear, President Trump had already proclaimed that the election will be fraudulent if he didn’t win. For many of us, that statement doesn’t even make sense. But yet, so many of his supporters believed this fraud narrative. So how did he do that so effectively? When you think about it, it was a simple strategy. As in Germany, he had to control the messages his supporters were able to hear. He made his supporters believe in an alternative reality by declaring any other media sources that was not pro-Trump as “fake” news. He mercilessly attacked the media and reporters who questioned him by inquiring their affiliation and declaring those media sources as “fake”. His supporters, hanging to his every word, heard him loud and clear. They tuned off those media sources and only listened to what he wanted them to listen to.

And let’s not forget how he rose in politics. He insinuated President Obama’s presidency was illegitimate through the carefully crafted racism-embroidered narrative that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya. President Trump amplified racial aggressions since the birtherism claims and he continued to stoke the flames of racism during his presidency. And make no mistake, President Trump knew exactly what he was doing. With his now-infamous “there were fine people on both sides”, the president was sending a message. Suddenly, there was this heightened suspicion everywhere against people of color driven by the innate need to maintain white supremacy and the control of white power. Calling it his movement, the Trump base believes in making “America great again”, and quite often immigrants and people of color are on the receiving end of their racial-driven aggressions. These racial motivated confrontations dubbed “Karens” started creeping up in all major US cities. Almost instantaneously, a person of color couldn’t bird watch, stay in a nice hotel, or even exercise in the park without threatened.

I could go on with a laundry list of grievances caused or enabled by his presidency. But I will spare you the shame because when he messed up, it makes us all look bad. And unless you have been living under a rock out of space, chances are, you already know and feel the shame. His mishandling of the covid19 pandemic, the denial of science, the politicization of masking guidelines, and the lack of PPE. The lack of a federal coordinated guidance and the politicization of masking guidelines thwarted mitigation measures and is the reason why the vaccination efforts are falling short. The moment he suggested injecting bleach, we all knew we were doomed. I know I said no list, but as a healthcare provider, I won’t let this slide. He accused doctors and nurses of somehow stealing or diverting PPE at a time when hospitals were grappling with the scarcity of resources.

America has always prided itself on its peaceful transfer of power as a pearl of our democracy where outgoing leaders will do everything to support a smooth transition to the newly elected leaders. President Trump’s refusal to concede has impeded that transition and threatened to break these treasured democratic traditions. 

Democracy is fragile. And the fragility of our democracy is what’s drawing warranted attention from all over the world. The extremists who had been galvanized to Washington DC on the notion that an election was stolen from them and it is their duty as patriots to fight back has made us a laughing stock again. But these deplorable acts were 4 years in the making where racial tensions have been brewing silently but furiously.

And even as we process the enormity of the Capitol Hill events, Trump supporters have already picked up another narrative. This wasn’t Trump supporters, it was Antifa left extremists. And instead of President Trump announcing there was no widespread election fraud, he would rather sit back and watch this country spiral out of control.

Like a toddler after a tantrum, President Trump has now been placed into a social media timeout as more and more corporate America realize the dangers of being perceived as dancing to his rhetoric false narratives that could potentially lead this country into civil war. 

The FBI has previously and repeatedly warned of the threat of domestic terrorism steaming from right-wing extremists and white supremacists. It begs the question? Why have these right-wing extremists been tolerated? We have the best security agencies in the world. For God’s sake, we found Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan after searching for him through mountainous and treacherous caves of Afghanistan. America has the security muscles and the capabilities to identify these terror groups that claim that they are taking America back. From whom? So many of us would like to see the FBI go after these terror groups with the same vigor that they used on black panthers. The same force that the Black live matters encountered during their summer protests. 

America as a country brags about its democratic values. No, let me rephrase. America is respected and even envied by its peers, because of its democracy. And yet, our citizens invaded and desecrated the Capitol undermining this very democracy that we so treasure. The imagery of neo-Nazis and the Nazis paraphernalia, the confederate flags so brazenly displayed was disturbing to many Americans. That was not America. That’s not us. Or is it? The fact that the joint chiefs felt the need to release a statement denouncing violence and declaring President-elect Biden as having won the elections is in itself very telling. As sad as this is, maybe, it is us. Well, a hundred years from now, history will determine if it was really us.

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