“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.” – Anonymous
There are numerous stories about betrayal throughout history.
Dating back to Biblical times – in Luke 22:56-61 – we learn about how the apostle Peter betrays Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times before the rooster crows.
During the Renaissance, in what is perhaps the most celebrated expression of betrayal, Shakespeare dramatically describes how Brutus and his group of murderers fatally betray Julius Caesar, then wash their hands not of his blood but in his blood. “Et tu Brute” are Caesar’s last words.
Finally, in the 21st century, Donald Trump has become the personification of all aspects of betrayal. He feels constantly betrayed, for sure has betrayed many and he talks incessantly about his two bookends in life: Unquestioned loyalty to him and his right to betray others – to throw them under the Trump bus in the past and, now, under the presidential limousine.
Already during his days on the campaign trail, Trump delighted in reciting a poem called “The Snake” mainly as a warning against welcoming refugees and immigrants into the country. People against whom Trump has often reserved his most vile and violent language.
Trump’s favorite poem features a “tender-hearted woman” who “[d]own the path alongside the lake” finds “a poor half-frozen snake,” takes the reptile into her home, revives it, only to be viciously bitten by the poisonous snake.
When the betrayed woman cries, “I saved you. “And you’ve bit me even, why? You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die,” the reptile answers “with a grin”: “Oh shut up, silly woman…You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
While the traitors and insurrectionists who on Wednesday stormed, breached, ransacked and desecrated the U.S. Capitol, terrorized its occupants — even “tracked” their feces and caused blood to be spilled in its hallways — can hardly be compared to a tender-hearted woman, the poisonous snake in the story Trump loves to tell can certainly allegorize his personality.
Tonight, the insurrectionists while sitting around campfires, fireplaces or wherever they may be cowardly hiding, are themselves grappling with the feeling of betrayal after their betrayal of our democracy.
When Trump, for two solid months, assured them that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him and them, they believed him.
When he asked them to help him overturn the election, they agreed.
When he asked them to gather by the tens of thousands in the nation’s capital on January 6 to help him overturn the election, they promised they would. And they did so.
When at the Capitol rally, Trump’s sons whipped up the mob with calls to fight and when Trump’s rogue lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called for a “trial by combat,” they listened carefully.
When Trump himself told the MAGA crowd “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong” his followers promised to do so.
When Trump told his unhinged supporters, “We will never give up, we will never concede” and when he called the Democratic victories the product of “explosions of bullshit,” they chanted in reply “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!”
When he finally told the adoring crowd to march on to the Capitol –- that he would march with them — to unconstitutionally pressure the Vice President and Congress to reject the election results, they cheered and clapped and heeded him.
However, when they marched, Trump was not with them.
He had abandoned them and was safely holed up in the White House watching on TV the mayhem he had created.
When the attack on our democracy turned really ugly and after refusing for hours to do anything about the riots, Trump finally relented to pressure from advisers and told the rioters in tweets, Facebook posts –- later removed — and in a video message: “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.” While still maintaining his lies about the “stolen election,” Trump also told them, “We love you. You’re very special.”
The next day, after Congress formally validated Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and only after both allies and opponents strongly condemned Trump’s incitement of insurrection, Trump — fighting for his political life — appears in one of the final scenes of the final act of this national tragedy and betrays those who have done exactly what he instructed them to do.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country and to those who broke the law, you will pay,” the betrayer-in-chief tells them.
There is a lot of betrayal to go around, so much betrayal that Shakespeare would have a field day memorializing not only Trump’s betrayal of his partners in insurrection, but also his betrayal of the Constitution, of his own government and of the American people who, four long years ago, entrusted him with a most sacred task: To respect the Constitution, to enforce and obey the law and – most important — to respect and protect the American people.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.