Now what indeed. The January 6th uprising was quelled but America has forever still before it. Where to? How do we get there?
In my previous posts about that dark day (one written as events were unfolding) I declared that I was never afraid for American democracy, as fragile as that democracy now seems after four years of taking a bruising. I’ve no real fear about the future of American democracy. The bruises will heal, maybe not today, not tomorrow and maybe not for months or years to come. The healing depends on a lot of salve; salve applied by the better part of America; Joe Biden, Congress, lawmakers from both parties, state, local and federal governments, law enforcement, the media and that part of the America that isn’t irretrievably lost in a rabbit hole.
But I am afraid. My immediate fear is over the final days of the Trump Administration and the inauguration. An FBI bulletin has been issued warning of armed protests, possible uprisings and threats to lawmakers, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Inaugurations are characterized by speeches, bands, lavish dinners, balls, fireworks and pomp. The inauguration is a celebration; not as a fist pumping gloat of one party defeating another, but as an affirmation of American democracy. We’re a week away from an inauguration that, because of coronavirus, was going to be understated out of public health concerns.
But now, because of the fulminations of a vindictive outgoing president and his coterie, it will be diminished due to security concerns. An inauguration unprecedented for being ringed by security unparalleled in our history; 15,000 National Guard soldiers plus local law enforcement. The welcome mat has been pulled by the officials of Washington D.C, Maryland and Virginia. And still, with all the security I have this sense of foreboding. This fear that a celebration will turn into mayhem and possibly an assassination attempt. The fear that right wing, Trumpian fueled violence will continue into the months to come.
Now what? The biggest and most pressing question that remains is what to do about the President of the United States; the grifting charlatan who has for four years been busy simmering his toxic stew until it came to a full boil a mere two weeks before his departure. Between the election and the invasion of the Capitol he was doing almost nothing related to actual governance and since January 6th he’s apparently doing absolutely nothing beyond cowering like a trapped rat, with no vehicle left available for him to lash out at a furious nation and world.
At this very writing, the Article of Impeachment for insurrection is being debated on the House floor and will undoubtedly be passed. At this very writing, Republicans in the House are chiding the Democrats for rushing the process through and disregarding process, as if the McConnell Senate didn’t make a mockery of the trial of the first impeachment.
The second trial will likely be held, but the Republican led Senate is out of session and won’t be returning until January 19th when it will become the Democratic led Senate; a day before Trump’s term ends, 1460 days too late. 1460 days of incompetence, prevarication, nastiness and…and…; hell, add your own observation.
Now what? The trial will most likely be held but only after Trump has left office. But it’s a trial that must be held and must result in conviction, not for the sake of revenge but for the sake of our democracy and to make a statement that the behavior carried on by Donald Trump will not stand.
The only remaining alternative is Trump’s unlikely resignation since Mike Pence didn’t have the stomach for invoking the 25th Amendment. Trump, as he does with everyone who he deems disloyal, turned on Pence when the Vice President refused to consider a rejection of the electoral vote on that dark day, January 6th. Pence, whose family was at the Capitol on January 6th and probably heard the mob shouting, “Hang Mike Pence.” As the ruckus unfolded Trump never tried to contact his Vice President, preferring instead to look on, like the rest of America. I’ll give Pence credit for one thing; he’s resisted the urge to serve Trump with a cold dish of revenge as a side order to the 25th Amendment.
A local radio personality opined that Pence didn’t invoke the 25th because it would dash any of the Vice President’s future political aspirations. Dashed political aspirations? That mule left the barn and is meandering over a distant ridge. The Democrats don’t want him; Trump nation wants to lynch him and rational Republicans are hoping to scrub the party of any trace of the Trump regime.
My sense is that following the right wing mob’s desire to throw Pence a “necktie party,” the Vice President, whose six months of Secret Service protection expires in June, might want to consider going incognito. Maybe he can grow out his hair, dye it black, cultivate a bushy beard, move to Berkeley and assume the guise of an aging hippie. I suppose that he could write a book; My Life as an Unrepentant Bootlicker, or A Buyer’s Guide to Kneepads, come immediately to mind.
Kidding aside there must be some part of Pence that fears for his well being and that of his family. Rather reminiscent of Columbia during the days of Escobar when politicians found themselves on the wrong side of criminals.
During the 1970s, when opposition to the Vietnam War was at its height, my father attended a protest during a time in his life when he was working for a government contractor. It was of course before the internet, before a person could literally carry a camera in a jacket pocket to record and promptly dox friends, family or perfect strangers. That said a newspaper photo of dad at an anti-war protest could have terminated his career.
People are losing their livelihoods over their attendance at the January 6th protest/riot and, with the exception of those protected contractually from termination, employers are within their rights. Employers can terminate even those who only participated in the rally; those who never went to the Capitol building and never considered taking part in violence.
Clearly anyone who was found to be on the wrong side of the barriers should be prosecuted and punished. But what of the others? Do we lump the rioters who stormed the Capitol with those who never even approached the Capitol?
A woman who owns a flower shop in Midland, Texas, posted a video in which she bragged about breaking into Nancy Pelosi’s office. She should probably be expecting a visit from the FBI, and rightly so. She’s received threats and her business has received a flood of one star Yelp reviews, some from people who’ve never set foot in Midland, Texas.
The owner of a candy store in the Bay Area was also in Washington. She attended the “Stop the Steal” rally, but not, according to her own account the violence at the Capitol. While at the rally she took photos, one of which she forwarded “to a few friends.” The photo was circulated online and with the expected result.
On January 7th, calling for a boycott of the candy store a local youth activist said on his Facebook page, “I don’t know whether she went into the Capitol (Building) or not. And I’m not saying that she did. And I’m not saying that she didn’t. But she partook in an anti-democracy protest. Call this out and say, ‘This not ok!'”
Maybe the young man should have been listening more intently in his Civics class. A non-violent protest is by its very nature a foundation of democracy.
The candy store has been trashed online, the owner threatened and as a result of protests she had to close her business early last Thursday.
Two days later, on the 9th, again on Facebook the same young man more or less walked back his call for a boycott saying, “I realize the harm,” (he’d done).
Both of the examples above are examples of “cancel culture” at work.
“Cancel culture,” a phenomenon that was more or less benign before the 1990s was supercharged by the internet with “cancelling” growing in intensity during the Trump years. Since January 6th there’s been a crush of “cancellations,” some with no foundation. Let me be clear, I’m not at all down with “cancel culture.” It’s an activity that can be petty, toxic, smacks of vigilantism and once started takes on a ruinous mob mentality. How so? Two flower shops that share similar names with the one in Midland, but are otherwise not affiliated, have been targeted in social media. One shop is located in Kentucky and the other in – wait for it – Scotland. For an informative article on cancel culture in The New York Times Magazine, The Long and Tortured History of Cancel Culture, follow this link.
Should the florist be treated differently, more harshly, than the candy store owner? As individuals we can choose to boycott businesses that we have an issue with; whether that issue is over customer service or some socio-political stance.
If justice is to be served, the florist who admitted being somewhere she shouldn’t have been, will have to answer to the law.
The candy store owner, by her account, was simply exercising her Constitutional right. Is there some constructive end game in putting her out of business?
Now what? Now what do we do about the people who showed up in Washington D.C. on January 6th? There were thousands. There is no question about those who broke the law. But what about the rest? What about those who went only to the rally to exercise their Constitutional right of peaceful protest? What about those across the nation who voted for Trump? Those who put a Trump sign on their lawn?
What do we do with these people now that WE are in power? Lump them all together? Ship them to North Korea? Put them out of business? Do we “cancel,” in essence ostracize, en masse, a large swath of American citizens? Is that how we expect to achieve healing? Is that the behavior that’s going to help Joe Biden bring a nation together? Will payback become the new normal? We’re already down that road. Now what? How do we leave the payback road and pave a new path?
In his Facebook post walking back his call for a boycott of the Bay Area candy store the young activist added that he is “in the process of setting up a conversation with (the owner). Activism has shown me that we need to have conversations with those who we may disagree with and have those conversations that are uncomfortable. This is the only way we can sew our country back together.” The youth activist realized, and hopefully not too late for the candy store owner, that there probably isn’t any magical healing power in cancel culture.
While I’m at odds with his original notion of democracy and his original call for a boycott I applaud the young man for his change of heart. He’s right you know. We need to engage; engage one on one, outside of social media, that forum where the fire eaters hijack reasonable conversation. Everyone must know someone who has supported Trump to this bitter end. They might be family, or friends, or coworkers; neighbors or teammates. Up until recently we considered them to be decent people. Suddenly, the enemy.
I was stunned to find, last October, that the woman down the street from us is a Trump supporter. She has always watched our house and collected our mail when we’ve been out of town. She’s given us gifts at Christmas or just for the hell of it. We’ve watched her home when she and her family have been out of town. Recently Cora baked loaves of cornbread and brought some to that neighbor.
I feel like at some point I should have a talk with her. Not to chide her for her conservatism but to try and give her a reasonable glimpse through my eyes. She thinks Democrats are Socialists. Maybe I should try to convince her that I’m not a Joe Stalin loving, gun confiscating Socialist who’s going to take her life savings.
What now? During the past year I’ve raised a few eyebrows in expressing that what this country needs is an Alexandria Ocasio Cortez presidency. And I stand by that. For America to catch up with the rest of the civilized world we need a true progressive in the White House.
But not now.
Now what? Now we need goodness; simple, unassuming goodness. What I wouldn’t give for a Jimmy Carter in office. He was and still is a good and decent man; a southern man, often ostracized in his younger years by his own community because he recognized racism and injustice for what it was. 96 years old he continues with the humanitarian work that he’s been doing since he left office.
We need simple, unassuming, disarming goodness. I believe that Joe Biden possesses that goodness. I hope he’ll be allowed to put it to good use.
Now what? The Herculean task of healing.