Early last week as I was waiting on the Electoral College to once and for all certify this election, still frustrated and dumbfounded over the large number of votes POTUS amassed in November’s election, I asked my husband, what is it that draws so many people to him? Where does this cult-like magic dust come from and why have so many signed up to roll in it? His answer: “Permission to be an asshole.” That’s certainly one explanation.
I remember early on when people were chewing around the notion of this self-absorbed business mogul / reality TV personality having even the remotest shot at the White House. Many Republicans and undecideds and disillusioned Democrats I suppose thought, fuck it, what do we have to lose? Let’s humor our curiosity and let the chips fall where they may in a let’s just see what will happen experiment.
Fast forward to January 6, 2021, and we have the unthinkable unfolding before us. Thousands organizing, marching, storming, destroying everything in their path. Propelled by their leader, the 45th President of the United States, they carried nooses, zip ties, Confederate flags, even one man came with a spear in hand and another in an Auschwitz hoodie, trashing offices, urinating in the Capitol’s hallowed halls, pulling up and ruining all that is fixed and revered. Along their way, they shot selfies, capturing maniacal sweaty grins stretched across their faces as they gripped torn placards, stolen files, broken sculptures, any and all proof of piracy they could expose.
In the earlier days of this godawful presidency, it used to feel like you’d gone to bed forgetting to secure the steak knives and sharpies, only to wake and wonder in the eerie quiet of the morning, uh oh, what will we find? Twitter removing the megaphone has further caged this pacing manic man, a bully now without his bullhorn.
“Let’s just get him out of office. I think he’s teed up to get out of office.” -Colin Powell
As Colin Powell noted with a painfully long 13 days left for the President in office, the weekend in front of us takes care of three days and then there’s just one week ahead of us. We need coverage and we need it now. Our toddler is having tantrums and the babysitter has gone AWOL. Grownups are trying to do their jobs, but their less-than-adorable child now needs constant monitoring.
Where does it start, this need for attention, this gaping hole that can never get filled in such a man and his throngs of like-minded followers? Who gets the blame? Is it their parents, genetics, the economy, lack of education? What then? What about the cardinal rules and the millions of little ones parents and teachers in command of us pipe into our psyches ad nauseum from day one – wait your turn in line, say you’re sorry, wash your hands. At what point after challenging the rules and still without reaching that place you wanted to land, does one simply become deaf to the rules and chart a new course?
“They’ve been lied to and convinced to invest in an anger that is not going to be easy to quell.” -Chris Cuomo
What makes these people so gullible, so hungry for a cause, a course of destruction? As for the liar(s)… if you repeat a lie over and over, does it become a truth? We are back at that great if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound question. I suppose it depends on the state of the minds hearing it as to whether a given lie will stick and permanently absorb into one’s awareness. We have before us a deadly reminder of how much words matter.
Are we simply looking for permission to be an asshole? And when we arrive, is it as good as we’d hoped? Were those moments of selfie taking and posting pleasurable or instead simply a shot of adrenaline the terrorists craved to break up the monotony of dashed hopes, crumbling careers, or broken relationships? Could that same rush possibly be found in moments of greatness, personal accomplishment, physical fitness, lifting up someone who’s fallen, or actively participating toward a greater good? It’s clear many are hungry staring into their uninspired cupboards and with fridge doors open, searching for something that will taste good on their collective upset stomachs.
What happened to these people? When did their deep disappointments set in? Were they ever on an optimistic course and simply dealt a bad bump in the road that they never could iron out? How did they become so disconnected from reality and civil society? We have to reckon with the notion that they are a part of who we are, who we have been for years.
I recently read that in Indonesia local authorities ordered several inmates to dig graves for those who have died of COVID-19 as punishment for not wearing face masks in public. I’ve also seen front line health care workers on TV imploring those who still doubt COVID’s existence to join them in the ICU to witness for themselves the real struggle. I’m curious if diving into this grim reality would change the doubters, open the eyes of those refusing to look. Instead of just having these angry people rot in jail, can they be rehabilitated along with the scaffold of our broken nation?
The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honor, respect, the rule of law. Just plain simple decency.” – Joe Biden
President-elect Biden says we have much healing to do, and he is right. In addressing some of our nation’s most pressing issues, such as COVID-19, racial injustice, the teetering economy, our children’s education and our planet’s health, how can we unite to build back better? The world is watching.