There are some advantages to living a long life and having the good fortune of a reliable memory. Let me explain.
The media has compared the domestic terrorism of Jan. 6 to other dreadful days that threatened our democracy, but in truth I believe there is no situation that was as serious as this. This was an attempted coup, planned to cause disruption, destruction, possibly death and injuries — whatever was needed to take the presidency from Biden and hand it to Trump.
There is no doubt this insurrection had advanced planning. None of Trump’s efforts to block Biden’s win previous to the election were successful. So Trump devised and persisted in a grand lie that he won the election. On Jan. 6, the day scheduled for finalizing the electoral vote, a “Don’t let them steal the election rally” had been planned. Trump was involved in its every detail, from selecting speakers, down to choosing the musical play list. Trump stoked the crowd and urged them to march to the Capitol. There was even more advanced planning. For example, pipe bombs had been set the previous night, and there had been unusual meetings between “visitors” and some of the legislators who supported Trump’s election victory lies, to tour of congressional offices (on Jan. 5). Lastly, about a week earlier, Trump tweeted, “Watch for Jan. 6th. It will be wild!”
There were reasons to be concerned about Jan. 6 and what might occur to disrupt the final elector’s count. However, few could have contemplated that even demonic Trump would devise a coup attacking our democracy in an effort to regain his autocratic presidency. The coup attempt resulted in horrorifying and terrorizing destruction of our treasured Capitol building, and the death of police and serious injury to others. This uncontrolled, vicious mob even constructed a gallows with plans to hang Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Pence. These marauders waved their Trump and Confederate flags, and also used them as weapons, to the extent of gouging out a policeman’s eye! Certainly, the National Guard could have helped stop this terror, but President Trump did not summon them until several hours had passed. Once the National Guard arrived, the mob hurried to leave, trampling many on their way out.
The destruction was far more severe than was apparent that day. Our democracy, the Constitution and its lawful guidelines, and our very way of life were challenged. Trump and his mob of followers had a temporary win, having interrupted the final electoral count, but it was short-lived.
Then came a remarkable ray of light and hope that demonstrated that our democracy was not defeated. Although Trump’s insurrection attempt had interrupted the electoral vote counting, he did not achieve his goal. Later that same night, our very courageous legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, returned to the ravaged Capitol. Amidst the sight of the destruction and the stench of gases, blood, and even urine still lingering in the air, they fulfilled their duty and completed the vote count. They were determined this outrage, perpetrated to stop a constitutional process, would not succeed.
I had hoped the brash mob actions of Jan. 6 would engender solidarity between Re-publicans and Democrats, but that did not occur. Just three weeks later I was disappointed to learn that only 11 House Republicans voted to rebuke Trump loyalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, for promoting violence and bigoted hateful statements. She threatened the life of Nancy Pelosi, and promoted outrageous QAnon theories that school shootings didn’t happen, and that no planes flew into the Twin Towers, etc. All House Democrats, joined by only 11 Republicans, voted to remove Greene from her Congressional committee assignments.
Does the Greene vote signal that Republican Senators will vote to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial when Trump’s very own words convict him? It would be a travesty of justice if the Senators choose to acquit. Our democratic society would sustain another blow to one of the founding statements that “No one is above the law.” If nothing else is determined, Trump should never again be allowed him to run for office or receive the amenities usually provided ex-Presidents. We must demonstrate to our own citizens and to the world our commitment to the U.S. Constitution and our democratic system of government.
Now is the time for that unusual bravery to resurface, similar to what our legislators demonstrated on Jan. 6. The quality of justice professed in our Constitution would be upheld with the conviction of Trump’s guilt at his impeachment trial. Let us hold fast to our precious democracy and what it represents: truth, diversity with equality, and justice for all.
Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident and member of the ACLU.