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The Three Great Ironies of the Trump Insurrection

By Dr. Mallory Williams, MD, MPH
Guest Column

             On January 6, 2021 after then-President Donald J. Trump addressed individuals attending the Save America March, acts of domestic terrorism that will forever haunt our nation took place in order  to overturn a presidential election.  Explosive devices were placed near the headquarters of both major political parties, nooses were hung from gallows which were erected on the west lawn of the Capitol Building, and insurrectionists invaded and desecrated the Capitol resulting in the death of five individuals.  We are left as an intact democracy to intellectually grapple with not just the events of that day but also the continued commentary from the insurrectionists which promise that they will return.


By Dr. Mallory Williams, MD, MPH

            As a Colonel in the United States Army and a trauma surgeon on duty at the Howard University Hospital Level I Trauma Center in Washington, D. C. on that dreadful day, I have deeply reflected on the occurrences and have concluded that there exist three great ironies of the Trump Insurrection.  These ironies are centered on the leader of the insurrection, the location of the insurrection and the loyalists to Trump.

            The leader is the first great irony.  The leader of the insurrectionist was former President Donald J. Trump.  He would not accept the fact that he lost the 2020 Presidential Election to Joseph Biden.  He has given great effort to contest this fact and to proffer a different reality to his followers such that they believe the election has been stolen. No court of law has upheld these accusations. 

            But Presidential elections aside, by every determination Donald J. Trump has had an extraordinary American life.  Both he and his businesses have benefitted in an enormous way from both the free markets and freedom that this nation’s democracy offers. 

             Six bankruptcies have allowed Trump organizations to financially reorganize and remain in business while dissolving debts.  Trump has enjoyed a tremendous amount of financial success and received a $72.9 million tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service in 2010. 

             The Trump organization defines its real estate portfolio as the finest properties in the world.  And yet it is ironic that the former president would lead a cause that would destroy the very foundations that enabled his astronomical success, American democracy. 

             Even for those who would empathize with the former president’s belief of a fraudulent election, they surely would also agree that Trump and his family have enjoyed a wealth of opportunities in America and there can simply be no reasonable explanation for his actions on January 6, 2021.  For Trump to attempt to destroy or overthrow a system of government that has allowed him to both accumulate tremendous wealth and consistently recover from financial failure seems to be quite contrary to what we should all expect. 

            We might therefore ask the question, “For Donald J. Trump, when was America not great? Even after not winning a presidential election, when was American not worthy of his loyalty, his decency, his patriotism?”

            The location of the insurrection is the second great irony.  Washington, D. C. is the ancestral home of the Nacotchtank people who were violently driven off of their land by British colonists.  We must always have the intellectual courage to appropriately begin the discussion with the first injustice.

             The Residence Act of July 16, 1790 establishes the capital of the United States in the District of Columbia replacing Philadelphia, PA.  Some viewed the rationale for this decision to be based in part on the appeasement of southerners who feared a capital city based in the North would be sympathetic to abolitionists. 

              But clearly the attributed major impetus for the movement of the nation’s capital to the District of Columbia was another insurrection, the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783.  During a session of the Continental Congress, unpaid former Revolutionary War soldiers marched on Independence Hall and blocked the doors and demanded their wages.  Because these soldiers were state residents the interests of the newly-created weak federal government were in conflict with the state of Pennsylvania. 

               John Dickinson, the head of the government in Pennsylvania refused to use state troops to protect the United States Congress.   It is because of this insurrection, resolved by Alexander Hamilton, that it was decided in the United States Constitution (Article I Section 8) to situate the capital in a federal district controlled by Congress and not a state.   So the events of Wednesday January 6, 2021 occurred in a city created with the intent of securing the nation’s government against insurrection by the citizenry.

            It would be intellectually insufficient to completely illustrate the irony of the location of the Trump insurrection only in terms of the founding of Washington, D. C.  The United States Capitol Building was invaded on January 6, 2021 and there is great irony in this architectural desecration. 

            The Capitol Building was built in part by the labor of enslave African Americans.  Owners leased their slaves to the federal government for a fee.  These patriotic inhabitants of the new nation cannot be called Americans because legislatively they were more property than person. 

           However, there is no historical record of their revolt against a nation that declared its independence in a historic document whose second paragraph reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” 

           These slaves literally built the foundations of the federal government and patiently waited for the perfection of the union.  But even more ironic is the fact that the insurrectionist, Secretary of War and, later, President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, presided over the building of the Capitol.  And it is his prerogatives that have been historically preserved unfortunately both in the stone and spirit of the building. 

          Secretary Davis rejected architectural design features that spoke to a brighter future including freed slaves in America.  The original design of the Stature of Freedom atop the Capitol Building included a knitted liberty cap symbolizing the token given to freed slaves in the Roman tradition.  This was changed at Davis’ request to a crested helmet with a circle of stars.  More substantially, the inhabitants of the Capitol’s hall persisted for over 100 years to deny or limit the right of representation and local governmental control to the citizens of America’s first black city.  So insurrectionists carrying the Confederate Flag vehemently marched and desecrated a monument built by slave labor to the specification of the former President of the Confederacy.  Jefferson Davis was one of their own.

            The third and final great irony are the loyalists to former President Donald J. Trump.  There are many but, without doubt, the greatest loyalist has been the former Vice President Michael R. Pence.  This life-long evangelical joined the Republican Presidential ticket to bring bona fide conservative credentials. 

          As a governor of Indiana he signed into law pro-religious and antiabortion policies that were extremely popular among conservatives.  He never differed or distanced himself from the president no matter the circumstance.  He faithfully defended President Trump and his policies until the final day of his term, even after being denied access to his office in the White House after the insurrection. 

       On January 6, 2021 a roaring riotous crowd first erected gallows and hanged a noose on the west lawn of the Capitol.  The same crowd shouted for the hanging of Mike Pence.  And for likely the first time in Pence’s life, he fearfully ran from his seat of power for the safety of himself and his personal family.  Who chased him?  The insurrectionists directed the frightful symbol of a noose not toward a black person but the vice president of the United States.  These were supporters of Trump, conservatives whose policies he had championed throughout his career. 

A larger group of Republican loyalists have traded the principles of their party in the hopes that they will be able to stay in power.  They have lost the presidential elections and majority control of the United States Senate.  But most importantly, they have lost the confidence of the majority of America.  Donald J. Trump has left these loyalists with neither power nor their party.  How ironic.

Dr. Mallory Williams, MD, MPH, Toledo resident, is a Professor of Surgery at Howard University.  He is the Chief of the Howard University Hospital Level I Trauma Center.  He is an expert on public policy surrounding violence prevention in urban disadvantaged communities.  He is a former Harvard University Presidential Scholar.



Copyright © 2021 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/19/21 14:29:34 -0500.

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