Last Wednesday, it felt like 9/11 all over again.
I was watching a huge crowd of Trump supporters surrounding the Capitol Building, swarming all over it like ants on an opened jelly jar when suddenly what I was watching became utterly unbelievable.
First, I saw the crowd running past police and into the building.
Then I froze in shock as rioters banged on what was surely bulletproof glass in a Capitol window and it gave way, letting more of the crowd pour into the building.
I was back in 2001 again, watching that North Tower crumple with its TV antenna straight down into dust.
But on 9/11, we were attacked by foreign terrorists operating from foreign soil. Within days, we had gone to war with them.
On this day, the attack on the very heart of our Democracy came from our fellow Americans. How do we fight that?
The rest was a kaleidoscope:
A still photo of men in gray defending a door that had little to keep it closed beyond some piece of furniture that had been dragged across it. “The danger must be real,” I said to myself. Guns drawn in the People’s House.
Another photo: Well-dressed people crouching on the floor between rows of seats in the House or Senate balcony because — thanks to COVID precautions — they had had to watch proceedings from there. A middle-aged lady in a red blazer, flat on her back with her hand to her chest. I knew that would have been me.
Then I thought of all the people who were in that building — 435 representatives and 99 senators that day, many elderly, plus staff — to perform one of their most solemn duties: finalizing the decision of the Electoral College, which of course is why President Trump chose Jan. 6 for his mob to attack.
I recalled the news story last year about the self-appointed militia group in Michigan. Their plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was foiled. But apparently their back-up plan was to take the entire state Legislature hostage; release the Republicans; and then execute the Democrats, one by one. This must have been in the minds of every senator and representative as security hustled them down the stairs and through the tunnels to a secure location.
But I’ve taken a few tours through that building, and every single staircase is made of marble. I couldn’t help thinking how slippery shoes are on marble and how lucky we were that apparently nobody fell and broke a leg or a hip or worse.
Then there was a long wait for back-up. Too long. Where’s Bill Barr, and his alphabet soup of government agencies “expanding the perimeter,” when you need him?
President Trump has been lying about the results of this election since before it was even held. But he’s not alone. A large part of his Republican Party has gone right along with him, including a shocking number of politicians who thought to burnish their own reputations by “objecting” to this day’s purely ceremonial electoral count.
Most surprisingly, I found myself agreeing completely with two Republicans. First, Sen. Mitch McConnell: “We cannot simply declare ourselves a national Board of Elections on steroids. … If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. … And I will not pretend such a vote would be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”
Then Sen. Mitt Romney: “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States.”
People speak often in metaphor of the “body politic.” And when a body’s cells go rogue and attack it, we call it cancer and use radiation to kill it or scalpels to cut it out.
What are we to do when the rogues are our fellow citizens?
The only good thing about this attack on Democracy is that now everyone can see what some of us have been saying about Donald Trump all along. He is no patriot, he does not believe in Democracy, he is a cancer on this nation. We were not crying “Wolf!” — you can see the Wolf, and his handiwork, for yourself.
He will disappear shortly.
What to do about his supporters, alas, is a different question entirely.