In biblical parlance, the familiar phrasing is "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." In simpler agnostic terms, the message is that one’s actions will directly dictate the outcomes one faces.
The verity of the verse and its associated sentiment were on full display Wednesday in the United States of America, when more than four years of mass-distributed misinformation and hatred-fuelling presidential rhetoric culminated in an armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
It was, and shall forevermore remain, one of the darkest and most shameful moments in American history. And what’s most surprising about what occurred is that anyone is in any way surprised it did.
The explosion of unhinged mayhem followed direct exhortations to violence delivered by President Donald Trump and some of his most obsequious lackeys — in particular, personal attorney/enabler Rudolph Giuliani and the most feverishly histrionic of the lesser Trumps, Donald Jr. — at a rally near the White House.
At the president’s urging, the agitated thousands headed up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was in the process of tabulating the electoral-college votes that would formalize former vice-president Joe Biden’s election as the 46th U.S. president.
"We’re going to walk down — and I’ll be there with you — we’re going to walk down to the Capitol," Mr. Trump told the crowd, before retreating to the White House to watch television coverage of the unfolding carnage he inspired. "You’ll never take back our country with weakness; you have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
That message, along with Mr. Giuliani’s earlier incitement of "trial by combat," was fully embraced by a mob that was already spoiling for a fight. And while the current president’s calculated propulsion of the crowd toward the Capitol may have been the final catalytic nudge, the foundation of Wednesday’s uprising has been under construction since before the 2016 U.S. vote, when Mr. Trump — then clearly anticipating the defeat foretold by numerous pollsters — began complaining the election was rigged.
His methodical efforts to undermine the electoral process continued even after his victory, owing to his fragile ego’s inability to fathom that he had won the White House but lost the popular vote. And he continued, at MAGA rallies and on social media, to denigrate and disparage democratic norms and processes throughout his first and only term as president.
Day by day, month by month, lie after lie after lie, Mr. Trump fomented the groundswell of mistrust and fury that crescendoed with Wednesday’s bloody uprising.
But Mr. Trump and his Republican enablers are not alone in deserving blame and scorn for their treachery. Social media — despite Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on Wednesday having taken the far-too-late measure of muting Mr. Trump’s toxic feeds — has been a conduit the president employed with ruthless efficiency to galvanize the hatred of millions of disaffected Americans, transforming pockets of isolated embitterment into a maliciously misinformed and violently motivated menace. Culpability for the current state of affairs is widely distributed.
The good news is that Wednesday’s rioting failed to disrupt the certification of Mr. Biden’s election victory, and that America’s body politic endures. The bad news is that unless he is summarily removed from office by political or constitutional means, Mr. Trump still has two more weeks to wreak vengeful havoc.
And the much-worse news is that even after the Jan. 20 inauguration, Trumpism’s toxic intent will continue to fester and erupt for as long as its progenitors and promoters infect America’s politics.