A President Donald Trump supporter carries a Confederate battle flag at the US Capitol after breaching security defences in Washington, US, on January 6 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE THEILER
A President Donald Trump supporter carries a Confederate battle flag at the US Capitol after breaching security defences in Washington, US, on January 6 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE THEILER

When I fell asleep on January 6 it was to news reports of the breach of the US Capitol by jackbooted thugs from the cult of Trump, and Trump enablers in Congress continuing to peddle the lie that he lost the election because it was rigged. I awoke to the following text from an SA friend:

“What shocking scenes emanating from Washington, Charles. Luckily some Republicans are coming to their senses. The damage to the US’s standing in the world caused by the president is not going to be easily remedied. Hope you are well.”

To be frank, I wasn’t well after seeing what the world witnessed in the halls of Congress and reading this text. I’ve not been this distraught since I received the news that our embassy in Tanzania had been bombed on the eve of my assuming my post there as US ambassador.

Obviously, I was not hurting (or threatened) physically. Mine was a pain of a different sort. Believe it or not, I was not bothered that an insurrection was instigated by “this” US president. When Donald Trump was campaigning for the presidency I knew he had come to “kill, steal and destroy”.

We need to commit to taking the country forward. We need leaders who are worthy of the people they serve. Trump lost the election because ‘we the people’ wanted a different way.

 

There is no noble subtext to Trump’s effort to foment chaos in the lead-up to the certification of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump is in a fight for his life. He is not (nor was he ever) interested in making America “great again”; this was always about him (and his family’s greed).

Trump is now fighting to stay free and salvage his financial future. He has charges pending in courts all over the country on everything from financial manipulation to sexual assault. A charge of sedition might well be added to the list. The Trump “empire” has lost a third of its value, despite him and his family having pimped and profited from his presidency to the tune of $1.9bn.

The issue for America today is the same as it was on January 20 2017. We knew what Trump was going to be about. The question has always been: what about us? Many of those feigning mock horror at last week’s events took the test on Trump long ago and failed.

America is not as broken as some on the extreme Right or Left would have us believe. Nobody needs to take back the country. We need to commit to taking the country forward. We need leaders who are worthy of the people they serve. Trump lost the election because “we the people” wanted a different way. The Republicans lost the Senate because “we the people” in Georgia, one of the anchor states of the Confederacy, replaced two Trumptilian Republicans with sane senators from the other party.

As I watched in disbelief at the chaos in the US capital, at one point I thought of my grandmother, a most religious woman. One of her often-spoken expressions was: “God keeps giving us chances.” One of her favourite hymns was Amazing Grace. It has in it a line fitting for the moment: “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, ‘tis grace that’s brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”

America has survived its share of dangers, toils and snares. We survived the original sin of slavery. Hands that picked cotton in 1808 helped pick an African American president in 2008. We survived two world wars, either of which could have been the end of democracy and America as we know it. We survived Jim Crow as a prophet named Martin called us to realise a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”.

By the grace of God we can survive Trump, Trumpism and the Trump terrorists that invaded and desecrated the US Capitol on January 6. To do so is simple, but complex in terms of the tasks that lie ahead. The hard part is that it starts with a choice, a commitment if you will, and that is to attend to the work of forming a more perfect union. It’s about the choice to add to the foundation of this city on a hill. That’s not an easy test to pass as we witness during the years of Trump’s presidency.

Olympus does not have to fall. It won’t, unless we fail.

• Stith served as the US envoy to Tanzania during the Clinton administration. He is the author of the soon to be released book ‘A View from the Other Side: Locked Down In SA’.

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