I quickly learned in life that actions have consequences. My parents were swift to correct any undesired behavior as I grew up, and even still, I hear the lecturing as an upperclassman. I would imagine that 20 years down the line, I’ll continue hearing my parents’ displeasure with some of my actions (I’m sure I’ll deserve it, and I’m sorry in advance, Momma). Actions have consequences: Good and bad.
This fact goes just as far for celebrities, Borat and — you guessed it — the president.
President Donald Trump was impeached a second time last Wednesday on the charge of incitement of insurrection. This charge, as many of us are aware, is based on the Save America rally at the beginning of this month. There, Trump breached our nation's integrity and laid the foundation for his demise.
While a key quote to mention is that Trump did say to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” it was his lack of public discouragement and allusions toward violence which justified the impeachment charges. Trump went on to say, “If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
And boy, did his worshippers do exactly that. Fighting like hell doesn’t even cover it. Freedom of speech isn’t applicable when you give radicals the go ahead to ransack the Senate dais, make the Rotunda a playground and maul police officers seconds after shouting “Blue Lives Matter.”
Incitement is a murky area in the eyes of a legitimate legal definition. Simply put, a speaker must advocate for a crime, which is then carried out in a certain amount of time. Additionally, it has to be probable that someone would commit the speaker’s suggested crime. These credentials originate from a specific court case, Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), in which a leader of the Ku Klux Klan advocated for terrorism at a rally to gain political reform. Incitement is an inchoate crime, meaning the speech itself is the crime, which nullifies the famously used First Amendment defense. Our freedom of speech was never intended to be omnipotent.
The problem is that Trump’s words carry immense influence. Over the past four years, we have seen a following unlike any other president has ever had – it’s a glorified fan club. A president is never meant to be a celebrity, but rather a liaison between the people and the government. The blurring of those lines during Trump’s presidency has evolved to something more dangerous. The die-hard supporters worship and praise the man — the man, who at the end of the day, is simply just a politician and businessman.
Trump is known as a leader who speaks off the cuff and has a hard time accepting criticism. When an individual like himself meets a large support system of voters without any doubt or question, the two create a dynamic that is undemocratic and, potentially, autocratic. All of this to say that, yes, words do matter, especially when they’re coming from Donald Trump.
The U.S. Capitol has always been a symbol of power and authority. When there were Black Lives Matter protests in D.C., the excessive use of protective resources were expelled immediately. Yet, somehow a half-naked man with horns waltzed around the sacred Capitol hallways and another man flaunted a confederate flag that degraded what thousands of men and women fought and died protecting.
Where were the rubber bullets then?
The images undermined the authority and respect of our beloved nation as if they ceased to exist. At the end of the day, the United States of America now holds less global power simply because Trump childishly rejected the American people’s vote.
Trump only has a pitiful few days left in office, but the global humiliation of our democracy is treasonous. Words hold power, and actions have consequences. We cannot repeat history, or specifically, a circus mob. The prosecution of Trump matters so like-minded followers do not also feel above the law.
God bless America and goodbye Trump.
Kaelin Connor is a psychology junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.