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The words of a president matter

It’s insurrection—two words we never thought we’d hear when it comes to the United States of America.

The United States (US) has always glorified itself as the poster child for democracy—the land of the free and a place of opportunity. As a global superpower, the nation had served as a model for countries that sought to adopt a democratic system.

January 6, 2021, however, marked a dark day in history. It was a day when the supposedly stable democracy of the US had been shaken by none other than its own president, Donald Trump, and his loyalists.

Trump’s supporters began a riot outside the US Capitol on the very day that Congress was to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. They forced their way into the building while donning riot gear and holding posters that proclaimed, “Keep America Great”, a slogan used in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. They were breaking windows and climbing walls, fighting their way in. Following the securement of the Capitol hours after the attack, 52 were arrested while four wound up dead—one of them having been shot.

“It’s not protest; it’s insurrection,” were the very words that Joe Biden uttered in addressing the nation that same day, urging President Trump to come out and end the siege. This assault on the Capitol is the first of its kind since the Burning of Washington in 1814, when the British attacked and burned the building during the War of 1812.

It is no news to me whenever I hear that Trump has said something appalling. However, when his recorded message was released on Twitter, I could not prevent the chills that went up my spine. I was more than disgusted. “Go home, we love you. You’re very special,” he told the rioters.

“The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite,” Biden remarked. This leads me to ask: how could the president of a country that is supposed to be the model for democracy condone, even love, the rioters who impede on his own nation’s exercise of freedom? 

Since the past month, Trump has been making baseless claims of illegal voting as well as allowing, even galvanizing, his own supporters to take actions that would impede a smooth transition into Biden’s coming presidency. Democracy should come hand in hand with justice, and now is when the latter is needed most. It is in this time that the President must be accountable for his actions, the actions of his supporters, and his condoning of such. Trump must take the blame for perpetuating this attack against the US Capitol and their democracy. No pardoning, no forgiving, and no forgetting. 

January 6, 2021, will be a day that will not be forgotten in American history, and it will be one that will be spoken of for the rest of our lives. The following days will tell us whether the US will go down in flames with its own so-called freedom, or if the absurdities will end here and the nation would rise again.

In turn, it reminds me of our own country. Like Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte is a populist leader who enjoys unwavering support from loyal followers. Although on opposite ends of the world, Trumpists and Dutertists similarly uphold right-wing views, at times with little regard for their own nations’ democractic systems. So if our own president is not careful enough with his words and actions, could extremely staunch pro-Duterte groups possibly incite the same chaos that we saw in the US? After all, when we look back at the past four years, how many anti-democratic policies and actions did his supporters overlook if not defend or even outright approve of?

If the democracy of the US, a global superpower known for this very system, is shaken by the actions of its president and his supporters, what prevents our own country from having to deal with such? When worse comes to worst, how far might our own country be from dealing with insurrection from our president’s supporters during our coming elections?

Only time will tell, and we can only hope for the best.

By Lauren Sason

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