LET POLITICIANS the world over take heed. The travesty that unfolded in the United States Capitol on Wednesday is a warning: those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
Words matter. Words have consequences.
Donald Trump’s words resulted in a mob storming the floors of the US legislature where elected officials had gathered to perform a sacred duty: the confirmation of a new, lawfully elected president.
For months now, Mr Trump has claimed, without basis, that November’s election was stolen, that non-citizens cast illegal votes, that there was fraud, that voting machines malfunctioned, that the election was rigged, that there was corruption – and on and on.
It was the president who encouraged his supporters on Wednesday. It was he who told them to fight. As they shattered windows, broke down doors, ransacked offices, he declined to use his pulpit to rein them in. When he did speak, he condoned their mad rage.
In the service of a president of “law and order,” the hoodlums moved to steal precisely that which Mr Trump claimed as stolen; to refashion democracy into mob rule.
Not since 9/11 has the world seen such a flagrant attack on the values of a country that holds itself up as a beacon of democracy.
But this assault did not start this week. Nor did it start with Mr Trump’s election loss in November. For four years, and indeed before, he has been egging on extremists: the racist “birthers;” the “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, Virginia, scene of a white supremacist attack; the neo-fascist Proud Boys whom he urged to “stand back and stand by.”
Of Haitian immigrants, Mr Trump said, “Take them out.” Of his own ambassador to the Ukraine, he said, “Take her out.” On his very first day in office, he decried “American carnage” around him.
It is he who brought about Wednesday’s inferno by lighting the fuse. He wilfully lifted the lid of Pandora’s Box, careless of the consequences for anyone but himself.
Mr Biden was in the end, inevitably, certified winner of the election early Thursday morning.
But it is hard to imagine more difficult circumstances for a US president to assume office. Whatever his own flaws, Mr Biden is a man of peace who appears to genuinely want to see the states truly united.
But on Wednesday there was talk of civil war, so wide are the rifts slashed open by Mr Trump.
Mr Trump’s Republican enablers, too, allowed him to lord over their party. Many on Wednesday saw, too little too late, the obscene fruits of their silence: the “citadel of freedom” under siege while police used tear gas; lawmakers sought refuge or had to be evacuated; and Confederate flags flown in the Capitol itself, symbol of America’s democracy and unity.