Politics Current Events

Trump’s acquittal requires retaining a sense of righteous anger

Jemar Tisby

We knew that this would happen. It was unlikely that 17 Republican Senators would join with Democrats to convict Trump during his second impeachment. But when the verdict came in on Saturday, February 13, 2021–just over a month after a violent insurrection at the Capitol in support of the former president–it was still infuriating. 

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because five people died in the insurrection, including one Capitol police officer killed that day and two more officers who died by suicide in the aftermath. 

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because Eugene Goodman–the Black police officer who saved lives by diverting the mob away from the Senate chamber–should never have had to put his life on the line in the first place.

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because a bipartisan majority that included seven Republicans casting a “guilty” vote was not enough to convict him.

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because even the largest margin of bipartisan votes in an impeachment trial in history was not enough to bring justice.

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because so many Black and Brown people made every effort to vote, in the midst of a pandemic, and helped deliver this nation from a demagogue bent on enshrining a fascist regime instead of a government of, by, and for the people. 

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because Black people in America remain the staunchest defenders of the right to vote in free and fair elections even though democracy has so often failed them.

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because it is another reminder that the principle of “one person, one vote” remains mostly aspirational. 

Trump’s acquittal is infuriating because, in a nation that prides itself on the peaceful transfer of power, thousands of citizens resorted to violence in an effort to impose their will over that of millions of voters.  

Whatever your party affiliation or political leanings, we all saw what happened. We all know that a months-long campaign led by the former president to undermine a lawful election under the slogan “Stop the Steal” led to an insurrection. 

Despite video evidence. Despite the screen grabs of the former president’s tweets. Despite the fact that many of the legislators who voted to let Trump off the hook were in the building as insurrectionists went marauding through the halls. The Senators who voted “not guilty” chose cowardice. They chose political expediency. They chose themselves. 

Kaitlyn Scheiss, the author of The Liturgy of Politics, shared this verse on Twitter after the verdict:

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both.

Proverbs 17:15

Indeed, God is not surprised at the waywardness of human beings. Yet God still detests “acquitting the guilty” and “condemning the innocent.”

In situations such as this–where the cowardice of politicians is not in question, and the failure of truth and morality are virtually assured–we must retain the ability to become angry. 

Although it is exhausting, we must never cease feeling a sense of offense at the miscarriage of justice. Holding space for anger at injustice is a way of holding onto our humanity. 

The Bible says:

“Be angry and do not sin”

Ephesians 4:26a.

We must not let anger consume us or others, but anger at unrighteousness can ignite action. 

Do not lose your capacity for outrage. It is this righteous indignation that gives us tender hearts for the oppressed,  prophetic imagination to envision a better world, and strong hands to build it.