Tragedy in DC
I try to avoid political posts on this blogs. Early on, it became obvious they’d always end up as gripe sessions, so I decided if I couldn’t say anything positive, I’d say nothing at all. Looking back, I think the last political post I uploaded was in 2016, when it was apparent the two major parties would be nominating the worst two presidential candidates humanly imaginable, and I realized things could only go downhill from there.
Four years later, I see was right, but I could never have imagined just how steep that slope would prove, or how fast the journey down.
What prompts this post is the tragic events of yesterday, when a rioting crowd of goons defiled the US Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism that left four people dead and what little was left of our international reputation in tatters. This, as former president Bush said, is the kind of deplorable spectacle you expect from a banana republic, not what is ostensbibly the greatest democracy on Earth.
There’s not much to be gained from belaboring the why’s and wherefores of this sorry mess, but suffice to say it all comes down to the delusional psychopath occupying the White House for another two weeks — a stretch of time that in an earlier version of American life could’ve seemed like the blink of an eye but in the current reality promises to be as agonizingly interminable as the four years which preceded it. I pray we survive it.
All I can hope is that the scenes broadcast yesterday prove a turning point for a lot of people, and that they’ll take it as a cue to step away and begin the process of letting go and moving on. Throughout history, previous leaders have had enough personal character to start that process on election night, or close to it, by telling their supporters, “Thanks for all you’ve done. We gave it our best shot, but it didn’t turn out like we hoped. I’ve offered my congratulations to the other guy: please join me in supporting him in his new role.” Losing is never fun, and thus roughly half the country always ends up feeling lousy on every election night. Depending on your level of emotional investment, getting over an election loss can involve navigating the five stages of grief, and a good leader’s job is to move you through it to “acceptance” as quickly and painlessly as possible, even if he or she feels ten times as bad as you do. But then that presupposes that a leader is interested in something beyond self-aggrandizement and worship-seeking, or if you want to be cynical about it, that they at least understand that their “brand,” their bread and butter, is “statesmanship,” and so projecting an air of grace in defeat, however much it may hurt or infuriate them on the inside, is a key skill. But for a guy who was never in it for public service, there’s only the intoxicating allure of having millions of followers in your thrall, and that’s hard to surrender willingly.
Still, we need that transition to acceptance in order to move on. This time, a lot of people have been denied it for too long by someone who can’t see beyond himself. But if that “it’s over” moment can’t come the usual way, from a candidate with the emotional maturity, class and decency to concede with grace, then maybe it can come in the bloody aftermath of explosive violence. Like a bunch of rowdy kids who escalate their hijinks until one of them ends up in the ER, or play with their dad’s gun til it goes off and leaves someone dead, this addled throng can wake from their fever dream to find themselves standing in the ruins they’ve made, moaning “I never meant for anything bad to happen…” The irredeemable will double down and keep plodding on anyway, and for them, as the guy in the old movie said, “somewhere an electric chair is waiting,” but hopefully a greater number of folks will realize they never really had an end game at all, merely increasingly bellicose rhetoric that, realistically, could only have ended the way it did; with injury, death and destruction. And hopefully that will be enough to make them decide “this is not what I wanted. I’m out.”
We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m sorry for the four people who lost their lives yesterday for nothing. Less than nothing. Another thing that’s kept me from posting on politics here has been the fact that most of it would be complaints about a horrible person who gets too much column space, too much air time, too much attention as it is. Really, with all the brilliant, accomplished people in the world, heck even with all the brilliantly evil monsters in the world, how is it this penny ante con man and mental midget ends up the most talked about person on the planet and the #1 topic of discussion every hour of every day for the last four years? As a textbook narcissist, he’s always been the center of his own universe, but he should never have been the center of everyone else’s. Whether it’s taking up all our time and attention, dividing families and friends or causing actual deaths (and these four are not the first), the ultimate tragedy is that this guy just is not worth it.
Sometimes it feels like we’re living in a Twilight Zone episode, and not even a good one. Not so long ago, I couldn’t have imagined an American president who would spend hours a day posting to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, let alone one who’d end up banned from both platforms on the grounds that he was a threat to public safety.(!) As a kid, I couldn’t have imagined a time when reporters would start their stories with phrases like, “today the president claimed without proof…” and I certainly couldn’t have imagined a time when it was only prudent to do just that. And now I get to deal with the insane reality of a sitting president inciting a crowd to acts of sedition against the very nation he “serves.”
Anyway, I was heartened to hear some good speeches last night from the Senate floor, including a couple from members of the Republican party, with which I parted ways in 2016 after 32 years and which still has a long way to go to win me back, if it ever can. Some of the folks on both sides of the aisle seem — seem — to have their hearts in the right place, so maybe we’ll dig our way out of the mess we’re in in the fullness of time. Or maybe it’s just easy to be “statesmanlike” in the hours after a crisis, but soon enough they’ll be back to acting like kindergarteners.
One thing’s for sure, after yesterday we’ve nowhere to go but up. Maybe it’s just me, but “great again” seems the exact opposite of where America is right now.