Last week was quite the time, wasn’t it? I wrote not long ago about how we’re living in and through history every day, but seldom do we get such a dramatic demonstration of that simple fact as we did on Jan. 6, which — like Dec. 7, 1941 or Sept. 11, 2001 — seems destined to go down in history as an infamous day for the United States, one that will be written about for many years to come and will probably have repercussions for just about as long.
I spent five of the first seven days of 2021 — including Jan. 6 — in Royal Inland Hospital, and thus had a rather interesting experience of the events of that day. Early in the morning I had been taken for a procedure that involved fairly heavy sedation, and when I got back up to my room and was in a position to look at news feeds on my phone my first thoughts were that I was still pretty loopy from whatever they had given me.
After all, surely the president of the United States wasn’t inciting violence and sedition, was he? And those people storming the Capitol: they’d be turned back by massive waves of armed security personnel, right? Well, once they got in the Capitol, they’d be swiftly rounded up and arrested, correct? And the Republicans who had announced plans to object to the formal counting of the votes in the 2020 election, on the baseless grounds that the election had been stolen, would surely abandon those plans in the face of what their rhetoric and lies had helped spawn, wouldn’t they?
“Yes”, “no”, “no”, and “no” are the answers, respectively. Less than a week later, more disturbing details are coming out about the attack: the chants of “Hang Mike Pence”, the gallows set up outside the Capitol, the pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails that were found, the terrorists armed with zip straps designed to act as handcuffs. There is also the fact — innocent enough on the surface, but chilling when you think about it for a moment or two — that some in the crowd were wearing pieces of clothing with the event and the date printed on them.
Just let that sink in. There was enough lead time and pre-planning for the events of Jan. 6 to allow for commemorative clothing to be printed and distributed to participants (unless someone was selling them at the site on the day, as if it was some kind of perverted music festival: “Get your traitor T-shirts here! Homegrown terrorist hoodies! Sedition special, one day only!”). It makes you wonder how no one who had the power to do anything about it seems to have seen it coming.
It seems likely that the inciter-in-chief will be impeached a second time, becoming the only president in American history to have that distinction. After the first impeachment, senator Susan Collins (R) famously said she felt that the president had “learned his lesson”. What will her excuse be this time? “He’s a slow learner”?
And some Republicans are arguing that this second impeachment attempt should be dropped, on the grounds that it will divide the country and prevent unity. Senator James Lankford (R) said “We need to turn the rhetoric down.” Perhaps they should have thought of that before nominating (twice) a racist, misogynistic, and ignorant serial adulterer whose main claim to fame was as a TV game show host and failed businessman, because after the last four years the whole idea of American unity is a ship that has well and truly sailed. On the plus side, the Twitter ban on the president means that the first lady’s campaign against cyber-bullying seems finally to have borne fruit, so — yay?
Speaking of TV game show hosts, here’s a palate cleanser: Alex Trebek. Next week, I’ll pivot from a man who represents America at its shameful worst to a man who, although not born there, represented that country at its very best.