The More We Learn
I have lived a long life. My choice of career has taken me around the world and put me many times on the front lines of momentous history. I have seen bravery and depravity, hope and fear, war and peace. I have seen leaders uplift and destroy, unite and divide, calm and incite.
I have lived in a world where I quickly came to learn that almost anything was possible, where I was never surprised by the propensity of events to surprise me. But I never could have imagined the United States would find itself in its current position.
With each significant chapter in the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump, we have experienced a rising tide of outrage, disgust, and disbelief, as well as a pervasive queasiness — is this really happening? What are we not seeing, behind the scenes? How bad can this get?
The events around the last election, building toward the coup attempt of January 6, were obviously dire and significant as we tried to process them in real time. We knew we had come close to losing something precious, but how close, and how much was really at risk? The unknowns and “what ifs” spiraled in our imaginations.
With the inauguration of Joe Biden, there was a sense of a return to at least a precarious order — in that the winner of the election had indeed become president. But the threat continued, and it still does. We will consider the specifics of these threats more fully in future posts.
But here now, in the wake of yet another jaw-dropping day of hearings by the January 6 committee, we can say that as bad as we knew it was at the time, it could have been worse. A lot worse. The Capitol could have been the scene of a bloodbath, with senior political leaders hunted and killed by a mob whipped up by the president and bent on vengeance. We might have sensed that before, but today made it chillingly clear how close we came to this outcome.
We know how hell-bent Trump was on having Vice President Mike Pence blow up the Constitution, and leaving him to the mob if he didn’t. To his everlasting credit, Pence bucked the pressure from a would-be autocrat skulking and plotting in the White House. The president’s enablers were warned of carnage in the streets and in the halls of Congress. They didn’t care. The president didn't care. The evidence suggests that that was what he wanted.
We are still learning more, and a story is emerging that still shocks many of us to a place of disbelief. I suspect that the committee members, as expertly as they have produced these hearings for maximum impact, are unsure where this will eventually lead. Case in point is the call for Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to testify for her role in the insurrection.
The twists and turns to come will likely still force us to contemplate that which is now beyond the limits of our imagination. Yesterday’s hyperbole is tomorrow’s old news. One thing we can all be thankful for is that truth is being served and history will know that a president attacked his own country. What that means for the man or the nation remains to be seen. It can get worse, a lot worse. But that might also be the path by which we get better.