A STENCH THAT SHOULD BE SLOW TO GO AWAY
Let’s start with a little good news. It appears that a new American president will be inaugurated on January 20th , and when the Congress convenes for the first time after that, there will be a thin Democratic Party majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Given what has transpired in America over the last four years and given the desperate and violent acts at the US Capitol, this transfer of power may be enough to allow celebration for a moment that a majority of those who voted in the recent elections gave the nation a chance at governance.
However, neither good government nor actual good governance is even close to being assured. First, there will be those, maybe President Biden himself, who will speak to a moderate response to what we have witnessed over the last days and years and the terrible toll it has taken on so many people. I hope that voices of immoderation prevail when order is restored, at least until the seeds of public accountability have taken root. The good news will not last beyond the virtual inauguration parade unless the new President Biden has nerves of steel and no, repeat no, illusions about governing in partnership with Republicans in some faux display of “unity.”
Moderated responses to immoderate actions are doomed to fail and serve only to further enable those willing to destroy to achieve their ends. In the instant case, there must be a quick and decisive immoderate response, albeit a non-violent response freed from revenge as its motive. That response must be seen as urgent and restorative. If not, this moment will be lost and the nation will again descend into governmental dysfunction in the face of the multiple challenges of pandemic, economic disarray, systemic racism and social injustice.
As we anticipate a new day dawning, one of the vestiges of days past should disappear from our discourse – the notion of “alternate” reality. There not only is no such thing but there cannot be such a thing, unless there are also “alternate” facts. There is reality and fantasy. When willful ingestion of fantasy overwhelms reality to drive political agendas and actions, you get the United States of America. It is simply time for this to end.
The nation cannot expect to move forward while treading water beneath the surface. We must find a way to rescue those souls drowning in a sea of fantasy largely of their own making. I love the First Amendment (no First Amendment, maybe no Hard Left Turn), but this crucial foundation of America’s constitutional democracy was adopted in 1791.
Other than falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, there is little public knowledge about the limitations of free speech, including the extent to which provoking insurrection in a crowded city is protected by the First Amendment. Further, it bears noting that neither the Internet nor “social media” was around in 1791 and that the First Amendment is a prohibition of only governmental activity even in its broadest reading.*
Without attempting a First Amendment primer, it is safe to say that a great many people in America’s delusional home of free speech believe that the right to freedom of speech is some kind of absolute. Since it is not an absolute and has next to nothing to do with private action, it should be safe to note that there is a lot of room to debate the extent to which America’s vile social media cesspool can be subject to limitation and control. Whatever else can be said, the First Amendment is not a license to monetize “free” speech, nor is it a shield which amoral peddlers of snake oil can use to avoid responsibility for the damage caused by their snake oil.
Since much of the fantasy abroad in the land, including the fantasies that brought armed thugs to the US Capitol, has been well documented for quite some time, the postmortem review should take a hard look at why it took an armed insurrection to expose a fundamental flaw in the notion that “moderation” can be an effective response to venal delusion when that delusion takes hold in the body politic. And, further, why it took an armed insurrection to finally raise the stakes on those who generate, spread, consume and defend the fantasies.
Then there is the tactical disconnect apparent in the law enforcement planning and initial response to what readily should have been seen as a clear and present threat of violence. A whole mob of White insurrectionists storms the Capitol, with little to no resistance and one shot fired. Meanwhile, pleas for assistance are slow-walked, and the insurrectionists are allowed to calmly walk away from the battered scene of their crime carrying their spoils of war. The inciter-in-chief is absent from the fray, watching it all on television, while his Marie Antoinette seem-a-like is finishing a White House furnishings photo shoot.**
So it goes in benighted America. I can hardly wait for the next Black Lives Matter protest that threatens prompt service at a coffee shop where the police move in to forcefully restore “law and order” at the point of a gun and arrest all they can who are Black or care about pervasive racism.
Being a Black protester in America just got even more perplexing. Perhaps the key to “peaceful” protest is to wrap yourself and your cause in the American flag or some flag-branded garb that says you and your cause are not a threat to law enforcement or to their cause.
There finally may be enough palpable outrage among some in the nation’s political class, maybe enough to ensure the security of the presidential inauguration. Meanwhile, the scum is fleeing from Trump’s orbit, leaving in their wake a dysfunctional national government, over 380,000 coronavirus deaths, a vaccination free-for-all, and ever-lengthening food lines. I hope that all will be investigated, their professional lives ruined, and the guilty eventually charged. That is what accountability looks like to me.
However, accountability cannot be complete until Trump, his grifter family, and his acolytes are driven from our midst, charged with crimes where applicable, and shamed into irrelevance. And impeachment should be just the beginning. That may seem immoderate, but so be it.
First Amendment - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.