Clifford Thompson writes in the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal that that ostensible reason for the Insurrection on January 6 was anger that Biden “stole” the election from Trump; the mob “knew” because Trump said it was so. Of course, it was a lie. Trump decisively lost both the popular vote and the electoral college. He thought he could inspire the mob to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote and intimidate them into overturning the results and installing him for a second term. The strategy was as stupid as the man who incited the mob. Congress was not going to overturn the election. Period.

Thompson says that the true basis of the Insurrection was the fear that white supremacy was losing its dominance. This is our country, our culture, our heritage, and “they” (non-whites) are “taking it away.” So they thought.

Not long ago, I wrote an article for Commonweal about the benefits and dangers of what I call rootedness. I define the word as a sense of belonging in the world based on an identification with a particular thing, whether that is a religious faith, a geographical community, a shared activity, or a philosophy. The benefit of being rooted is that we feel less alone. The danger is that when made to choose between our rootedness—which provides our sense of who we are—and the truth sitting right in front of us, many of us, perhaps most, find a way to ignore the truth.

The negative extremes of rootedness were on full and frightening display on January 6 during the storming of the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead. What the rioters demonstrated nearly as well as the fact of their rootedness was its particular variety. I say “nearly” because while the idea that the rioters are actually rooted in, that is, white supremacy, was on full display too (witness the Confederate flag being paraded through the Capitol), it was not the ostensible reason for their collective criminal action. No, for that they took their cue from President Trump, who filled their heads with lies about the 2020 presidential election being “stolen” from them—lies that a clear-eyed look at the facts would refute—and then sent them, with all the justification they felt they needed, to wreak havoc on the world’s most important site of the business of democracy.