The US capital, Washington DC, these days gives the look of a town under siege. Many roads and all access to the White House and the US Congress, the seat of the legislative branch, are blocked, whilearmored military vehicles are in evidence all around. Many shops have been boarded up, and there are more National Guard troops on duty inthe city today than soldierscurrently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. They are deployed to guard the city installations and to protect the inauguration ceremonies scheduled for January 20, 2021,of incoming presidentJoseph R Biden, and vice president Kamala Harris.The Mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, has been advising would be travelers to stay away from the city and watch the inaugural festivities on the TV instead.What would normally be a time of joyous celebrationhas become a somber occasion marred withtension andpervasive anxiety. This country is experiencing a period ofturmoil unlike any it has seen in over a century and half, since the dark days of the civil war (1861-1865). With less than two weeks left in office, Donald Trump was impeached for the second time in his one-term presidency, an unprecedentoccurrencein the history of US democracy. Hehas beenaccused of inciting an unruly mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6, the day when the Congress was due to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. In a fiery, inflammatory speech to a huge rally of his devoted followers whomhe had called to Washington, Trumpexhorted them to “fight like hell” tooverturn the election results and encouraged them to storm the US Capitol, a short walking distance away, where the Congress was meeting to formally ratifythe electionresults. The mob,comprising a disparate assortment of white supremacists, antisemitic neo-Nazis, believers inbizarre conspiracy theories–the so-called QAnon-supporters–andotherriff raff,stormed the hallowed citadel of US democracy. They marched menacingly towards the Capitol and finding little resistance, breached the barrier and rampaged along its elegant corridors andlong majestic halls.Although he had promised to accompany them, Trump remained in the safety of the White House. The ill-prepared and ill-equippedCapitol police was no match for thousands of the angry, violent insurgents and were quickly overwhelmed. President Donald Trump’s ultimate downfall should be a lesson to authoritarian rulers around the world, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Viktor Orbán of Hungary, whose power and influence is rooted in their ability to fan fires of hatred against segments of their own population and promotion of a hateful ideology The rioters, characterized as domestic terrorists by the FBI, were in control of the Capitol building for hours, roaming and ransackingat will. Some were carrying battle flags of the confederacy of the Southern States that had mounted a rebellion against the federal Government to preserve slavery. They used metal pipes and fire extinguishers to beat the police.The Congressmen and Senators, who were in session, were hurriedly removed for their safety to a secret bunker They cowered for several hours fearful for their lives. The rioters were looking especially for Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, and vice president, Mike Pence, since the latter had refused to overturn the election as demanded by Trump. It was a surreal scene. The capitol was last invaded more than two centuries ago, August 1814, when British troops led by General Robert Ross destroyed the city’s public buildings, including the Capitol and the White House It took nearly six hours and reinforcement from the Washington police to cleanse the Capitol building of the rebels. In the meantime, five lives were lost, including two brave policemen who tried valiantly to fight off the intruders. In addition, scores of policemen were injured. This writer was watching on the TV only a short distance away from the scene, while millions watched in horror from around the world on live TV as the events were unfolding. The country held its collective breath as it was uncertain that American democracy would survive theinvasion of the seatof US democracy by barbarian hordes. Among scenes of mayhem, there were scattered examples of uncommon bravery. A police officer realizing that the mob was getting perilously close to where members of Congress were hiding, used himself as a decoy, distracted it at great personal risk. Similarly, the Congress determined not to capitulate to thedictates of the rioters, reassembled even before it was clear that the place was safeand completed its work at 4 o’clock in the morning, certifying the election results. Nearly one hundred terrorists who invaded the capitol have now been identified and arrested. How could American democracy portrayed by President Reagan as “the shining city on the hill” and an inspiration to the whole world, come so close to extinction? The question will be debated for a longtime.We know that American society has been polarized along racial and ethnic lines for a while. The four years ofthe Trump presidency havesingularly widened the gulf and exacerbated the problem. His policies encouraged the white-racist elements in society and his signature slogan, Make America GreatAgain was perceived by many as Make America White Again. The far-right white militant outfits, such as the Proud Boys, have thrived and have drawn oxygen from Trump’s tenure in office and his race-based rhetoric. To this day, Trump has stubbornly refused to acknowledge Biden’s election victory, rejecting all evidence and countlessinvestigations certifying its validity. He has, attributed it to massive fraud and rigged ballots.Notwithstanding all evidence, Trump has successfully convinced his ardent followers, including some members of US Congress, that the election had been stolen from him and he wasunfairly denied a second term. The fallacy of his claim is unravelling now and some of his own party members (Republican) have deserted him. Defying the noble tradition associated with the peaceful transfer of power, a hallmark of the US democracy, he has refused to attend the Biden’s inauguration ceremony. He is spending his final days, a lonely figure in the White House. President Donald Trump’s ultimate downfall should be a lesson to authoritarian rulers around the world, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Viktor Orbán of Hungary, whose power and influence is rooted in their ability to fan fires of hatred against segments of their own population and promotion of a hateful ideology. The magic spells based on untruthsdonot endure and are likely to be shattered ultimately. The writer is a former assistant professor, Harvard Medical School and a retired health scientist administrator, US National Institutes of Health.