Like many, I watched in horror as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In this day and age, when we have almost grown accustomed to seeing or hearing something outrageous almost every single day, it’s hard to be shocked by anything anymore.
But shock, disgust and sadness came easy last Wednesday.
I really don’t know why I was shocked by it. The president, his children and even Alabama’s own Rep. Mo Brooks and others were absolutely encouraging and inciting this riot. I guess it was just hard to imagine the scenes we saw even being possible in this country.
In the days following, Brooks has tried to deflect, saying Antifa was behind this, and he only wanted people to protest in lawful ways.
But when he reminded an already highly agitated crowd that their ancestors shed blood and sometimes sacrificed their lives to create “the greatest nation in world history” and asked them if they were willing to do the same, did he think that it was more likely they would make a mental note to volunteer to distribute yard signs in an upcoming election or go invade the U.S. Capitol where they defecated on the floor, replaced American flags with Trump flags and beat a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Duke University graduate (where Brooks finished with honors) to know the answer to that question.
If you have grown as cynical as I have over the past four years, you get exactly why he and the rest of Alabama’s Republican congressmen, including our own recently elected Jerry Carl, voted against certifying the election results. Though their actions are sometimes idiotic, they are not idiots. Trump got 62 percent of the vote in Alabama — over 1.4 million votes. They knew the election was going to be certified even if they voted against it, but they now get to come home and pander to the base and say they did their best to “stop the steal” — a “steal” that has been disproven in multiple courts in many states with Trump-appointed judges and by a Republican secretary of state in Georgia who voted for Trump. But Alabama’s leaders still voted against it. It was a political calculation, but it also fanned the flames of insurrection.
These leaders fancy themselves great patriots by doing this I guess, but I really can’t think of anything more unpatriotic. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of American democracy. It’s usually a day of great unity in this country. Even though the baton is quite often passed between bitter rivals, it is passed. The former president writes a letter to the incoming president and their spouses talk about the challenges they will face, and they all sit up on stage together on a crisp January day with all the living former presidents, and we all watch together. And even if our preferred candidate wasn’t the victor, we still have hope the new president will lead us in the right direction.
If you have lived long enough, the guy or gal you really wanted to be president has lost a few times. It sucks, but life goes on. Usually, two years later, the pendulum swings back and whatever party wins the White House loses the House or Senate or both. And life continues to go on then too.
But what we saw last week cannot continue to go on. And Mo Brooks and Jerry Carl and the rest of our delegation need to do everything they can to turn down the temperature on this insanity, not pour gasoline on it by telling a mob they need to “start taking down names and kicking ass,” as Brooks did.
As Gov. Kay Ivey rightly put it in her response to Brooks’ comments, “Everyone should be held accountable for the words they use. I’ve long believed that as elected officials, we should be held to a higher level of accountability.”
She’s right. Words do matter. In fact, they have completely driven us insane over the last four years. The president tweets out something, then 500 liberal and conservative reporters tweet their reactions to it, then millions of Americans feel compelled to type up their hot takes and fight with each other too. (It’s been so nice not having to deal with that exhausting cycle over the last few days.)
Again, I don’t know why the events of last week surprised me. The red and blue mobs have been there all along fighting against one another on social media. One side finally just traded their keyboards in for zip ties, flagpoles and fire extinguishers. I guess it was bound to happen. But it’s heartbreaking and depressing.
We are a country that is hopelessly divided. It’s hard to envision it will ever be anything other than this. In fact, it will probably only get worse. Both sides think the other consists of horrible delusional sheep and both sides can find their own news networks, newspapers, websites and echo chambers to confirm whatever they want to believe. Will we ever just be able to get back to a place where we can say, “You know, I don’t agree with my neighbor’s views on the economy, trade or gun control, but he’s my friend.” Is that too much to ask? To live in a world where we can do that?
In one week, we will have a new president — one, who like it or not, won fair and square. And I am absolutely terrified something horrible is going to happen. There are already reports that up to 4,000 armed people are organizing to surround the U.S. Capitol on Inauguration Day to prevent Democrats from entering.
I hope and pray this is not the case.
But it is imperative our Republican leaders, including Mo Brooks and Jerry Carl, call for a peaceful transfer of power and stop making these people think they are nouveau Thomas Jeffersons and Patrick Henrys. If Brooks, Carl and the gang won’t do it for the sake of the country, perhaps they will do it for their own safety. Do they really think when this mob starts “kicking ass and taking names” they are going to take the time to check and see which old White congressman plays for the blue team and which one plays for the red team? I highly doubt it.
The fact that we are even having to employ the words insurrection, sedition and coup in our daily conversations and prepare for an “attack” on Inauguration Day is absolutely mind-blowing and sickening.
My God. It is past time for this insanity to end. Enough is enough.
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