As I look from my window today, I still see Trump flags proudly fluttering in the breeze. Cars and trucks still pass by with their flags and banners proudly waving in the air. I’m taken back to where I was just over 4 years ago, when Trump got elected in 2016, and I begrudgingly wrote a congratulatory Facebook post. Obviously I hadn’t voted for him, but I tried to respect the will of my fellow Americans. I can distinctly remember thinking, “It’ll only be four years.”

Was I woefully optimistic? Absolutely. I’ll be the first to admit I had absolutely no foresight nestled in a place of sheltered ignorance. Sure, I’d lived all over the United States, but now living in a predominantly white area (minus work, I may see a person of color out-and-about once a week, and I’ve explained to people why terms like n*gro and c*lored are unacceptable) forged an already wide disconnect from the struggles faced by fellow citizens. I am not white savioring in this post, nor am I going to try to speak for the experiences of those who’ve lived in a much different America than I know. My mindset has always been that I cannot speak for others, but I can fight for them to have a platform.

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert in the United States government, but my background in history made yesterday’s events stand out like a sore thumb. I watched the news with the same level of dedication as a ravenous animal looking at its next meal. As I have for multiple times in the last year, I cried. I got angry. Most importantly, I began to think. How did we get here? What does this mean for the United States? What was their endgame?

There are a plethora of posts published today attempting to explain yesterday’s events. Theories range from Trump inciting violence to social media not stopping him soon enough to an intricate ANTFIA façade. The latter is absolutely asinine, but the two former factors are readily in play. Regardless of what Trump supports want to claim, this is his doing. Own up to what you have created and supported. I’ve always been a firm supporter of celebrities not being elected to office due to the cult of personality that surrounds them. This is why Reagan is revered as a God for those on the right, and we’ve seen the same thing with Trump. As far as social media, Trump’s temporary bans are a long time coming. If Twitter and Facebook initiated these policies 4 years ago, we wouldn’t have been subjected to 4 years of Trump’s digital kangaroo court.

As for what it means for the United States, again, there are a seemingly endless amount of suggestions, ranging from temporary to the long-term. I have always held the First Amendment in high regard, but yesterday showed me why there need to be limits that stretch far beyond a slap on the wrist for desecrating government property. People can’t just come out and say and do what they want before hiding behind the Constitution like a 5-year-old hides behind their mother’s skirt after pulling a sibling’s hair. I guarantee a portion of the people we saw yesterday were the same ones who suckled on Alex Jones’ digital teat when he spouted off on chimeras and Sandy Hook being a hoax.

Disinformation needs to be combated. It can no longer fall under the vague distinction of entertainment or have a hastily posted disclaimer. Monitoring social media is a start, but this will simply make dissenters of fact turn to other platforms. Monitoring major platforms like Twitter and Facebook is little more than a band-aid for what permeates American society: legal disinformation guising itself as truthful entertainment. Actual malicious disinformation from those on the left and right needs to be tackled head-on. Domain hosts and websites need to face repercussions for the fires they stroke. Vague terms of agreement aren’t cutting it in our society, and the United States government needs to catch up with the times.

As for what those who committed terrorist actions want, there’s no clear answer besides an authoritarian demagogue in power. They can hide behind their Trump flag capes and their hats bearing “AMERICA,” but their shortsightedness doesn’t align with their message of wanting to defend a democratic republic. My own opinion is that they want no challenge to the status-quo, harkening back to the good old days when anyone who wasn’t a straight, white Protestant fell into the painfully vague realm of the “other.” The United States is not a melting pot to them; it’s a beacon of white exceptionalism with a heavy dose of American nationalism.

My hope is that Americans will actually wake up, although with a collective memory envious of a goldfish’s, I won’t hold my breath. My hope is the ultimately passive behavior I exhibited 4 years ago is never repeated by me or anyone I know. Most of all, I hope that we take a good, hard look at what we’ve allowed our country to become, and we cut the ills at the root instead of the repeated pruning of heads that birth more issues than ever before.