The images overwhelmed, just as waves of gleeful rioters overwhelmed the shockingly sparse police presence in surging through mere barricades and glass windows, easily mounting the ramparts and invading the halls of Congress.
There they frolicked and trampled, leaderless lords of flies inspired by a malevolent cult figure who had incited them earlier with another in a long line of delusional, muddled rants that reeked of mental illness.
“American carnage,” 2021.
And dispiriting as it was, none of it was surprising. None of it.
He has been the chaos president because his life is built on his chaotic character, on the dark hole at the center of it, on the belligerence that is his animating principle. He savages everyone who gets in his way, which eventually is everyone, given the relentlessness of his self-regard.
It felt like a violation, as if this throng had entered our own homes, breaking through windows and doors and replacing the art on our walls with images of him and flags bearing his name.
That everyone yesterday went far beyond the business associates, attorneys, cabinet members, advisors, legislators and all those whom he had bent to do his bidding over the years, simpering and kowtowing to his every craven desire until he saw fit to discard them.
Yesterday, it swept up the entire nation in its dark maw, with images so shattering to our self-identity that we could only watch appalled, sickened in our souls by the furies that he had explicitly encouraged and built into the trademark of his cult’s identity.
All of it reaching its all too predictable apotheosis in a hail of smoke and broken glass, death and injury, leaving a grievous bruise on our nation’s heart.
It felt like a personal violation, as if this throng had entered our own homes, breaking through windows and doors and replacing the art on our walls with images of him and flags bearing his name.
Have we finally been brought low enough? So low that even his political class enablers, spineless opportunists all, can no longer explain away or trivialize the severe, frightful damage we had all along known he and his most ardent followers were capable of?
Have we plummeted but perhaps now bounced, even if just an inch, off the nadir, the very pit of hell whose flames he has been fanning from the unique position of power he shockingly obtained four years ago?
At the moment, we have 13 more days in a kind of countdown from madness, and a statement from him this morning that he will now consent to an “orderly transition.”
Given the incompatibility of the word “orderly” with anything he has ever done or spoken of, we have plentiful reason to be skeptical—and fearful that more mayhem may yet await.
Though calls abound after yesterday for a second impeachment or invocation of the 25th Amendment to remove him from office on the basis of his “incapacitation,” the sheer logistics of mounting such efforts over such a short span with so much else requiring our urgent attention would appear insurmountable and therefore ill advised, however righteous their justification.
Instead, cool heads must now prevail and erect a kind of ring of containment around him.
This would most importantly include the military and defense department officials, whose leaders have surely been conferring for months on contingency plans for squelching any impetuous adventurism with which he may want to go out in a blaze of ultimate invective and glory.
We have lived in perilous times for four long and devastating years now, and though we will not exactly cross a finish line where all our problems will become past in 13 days, the sense of relief we will experience in his removal from the world’s prime seat of power should not be underestimated.
It will be as a knee removed from our neck, allowing precious oxygen to begin seeping back into the body politic. Eventually, with diligence—and perhaps, borne of yesterday’s devastations, a renewed commitment to basic comity—it will allow us to rise and rummage around in search of all that has been lost or rent asunder in these years of trial.
“Hope,” Emily Dickinson famously wrote, “is the thing with feathers.”
I’ll settle for those feathers sprouting slowly, tentatively, so long as I can indulge the dreams of eventual rising to flight that they inspire.
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Andrew, I share your anguish and anger, and I am not yet at the point of hope. However, when you observe, “waves of gleeful rioters overwhelmed the shockingly sparse police presence,” I would add that the police were not only overwhelmed, some were positively welcoming. No one has any doubt about the bloodshed that would have occurred had this mob been black. I don’t want there to have been violence, but did the police have to set out the best china for tea?
Oh, I’m a ways from any consistent hope myself, Julie, which is tentative at best but for me a kind of moral imperative to continue aspiring to. Hope and the solace of small things, tending the various gardens (and weed patches!) in front of me. I suspect hope will always be a work in progress, buoyed to a great degree by the dismal nature of the alternative…
As for the welcoming police, I have seen some of those clips, about which I will reserve judgement because the things I saw didn’t provide enough context for me to gauge with any degree of confidence what the situation was on the ground. I do know I saw many more clips of police under dire threat, involved in heated altercations that I was glad didn’t involve me!
From all indications, law enforcement was overwhelmed by sheer numbers in those early hours, but what I do not understand and would like to see some explanation for is how they could not see this coming and thus be prepared accordingly? I read a media account a day or two before about police preparation and the officials claimed all was under control, multiple agencies would be present in adequate numbers to deal with anything that happened, not their first rodeo, etc. Uh…no they weren’t. Why not?
And yes, there’s little doubt about the dramatically different scenario that would have unfolded if the bulk of the rioters had been of a different racial group than they were, with a far more benign agenda in mind than forcibly bringing congressional proceedings to a halt and overturning a presidential election.
I wrote this poem a few days before Donald Trump took the oath of office four years ago.
His Hate, like a soulless pall, suffocates,
sowing evil; augers of a dark world,
devouring souls like carrion hors d’oeuvres,
tearing asunder Good with toxic talons.
Vile words, synchronized beats to callous hearts,
drip and spew forth anger in demonic calls–
“Would you rather your child be feminist or have cancer?”
“Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control’s Human Shield.”
“The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage.”
“Gay rights have made us dumber.”
Whisper, please. Hide your true self.
Watch Fox. Read Breitbart.
And why do we need the Endowment for the Arts?
Communists built a wall to keep ‘em in.
He’ll build a wall to keep ‘em out.
He’ll gut Lady Liberty, laugh, then shout.
His design, drown all opposing voices,
And pave the path for democracy’s death;
An eerie silence, freedom’s nightfall ensues,
serenaded by muted songbirds in gilded cages.
He flouts inalienable rights with disregard,
Poisoning the land like a dirge unfurled,
Praising seditious acts, tombstones in a foul graveyard.
Whisper, please. Hide your true self.
Watch Fox. Read Breitbart.
And why do we need the Endowment for the Arts?
Crosses rend burkas beneath “English Only” signs,
And tariffs scream to hell with the world,
Cries of disgust abound in faraway cities,
Berlin, Dublin, New Delhi,
Brussels, London, Paris, Nairobi
Sydney, Cape Town, Barcelona,
Athens, Mexico City, Montreal.
Vast protests, arias demanding change,
Channeled choruses swirling the globe,
Despair succumbs to spirited defiance.
Yell. Don’t hide your true self.
Never watch Fox. Boycott Breitbart.
Sustain and support the Endowment for the Arts.
Thanks, Robert. In the early 2016 primaries, I dismissed Trump as a hopeless buffoon doomed to fail and doing it only for the publicity anyway. Then when he was elected, crestfallen as I was, I thought he’d at least be a deal-swingin’ businessman, willing to compromise on legislation and sell out all his principles, since he had none to begin with. It wasn’t until his “American carnage” inaugural speech that I realized the full horror of what awaited us (which you have deftly rendered into verse here). And it has been carnage indeed, except wrought by him rather than repaired as he claimed he would do.
Since then, almost as pernicious as Trump himself have been his countless congressional and cabinet level enablers, who made their deals with the devil for four long years and have now come face to face with the fires that have finally raged beyond anyone’s control. What did they THINK would happen? What didn’t they learn from their Mamas about the futility of trying to forever appease a malignant, narcissistic bully?
Andrew, you are such an eloquent writer. This is what I sent this morning to the Maine Congressional delegation.
The events of yesterday and Mr. Trump’s involvement are hideous. He should not be President. I ask that you do whatever is in your power to remove him from office. It is NOT sufficient that in 13 days he will be out of office. His actions demand a response NOW. To do less is irresponsible. We do not need speeches. Anyone can make a moving speech, but you, our representative in Congress, can actually do something. This dangerous, treacherous, insurrectionist demagogue must be removed from the White House.
Far more important than eloquence is speaking the clear truth, Royce, which you do here, in spades. If ever there were grounds for removal from office, this would be it, to be sure: basically open sedition by a sitting president. The mind truly does reel…That said, I’m not sure whether they could pull it off logistically, given that Trump’s congressional die-hards could likely employ parliamentary maneuvers to easily run out the clock. I could be wrong on that, but I doubt we’ll get a chance to find out. Meanwhile, please let us know if you get a response from your rep beyond a “Thanks for writing” form letter. Cheers & Happy New Year to you & yours!
Appreciate your post and the reader responses, for sure none of this was a surprise yet watching it felt like being in an alternate reality – how could this happen in OUR house? Of course the answer is both complex and simple – many factors that all come back to Trump and the GOP sychophantic enablers who’ve spent 4 yrs licking his boots. The events in Georgia however act as a bit of a counter-balance providing some hope that the tide is turning towards something we could recognize and “normalcy”. I totally concur with Royce, some kind of swift response to indict/impeach/remove Trump as well as Don Jr and Rudy for starters. Aiding and abetting criminal sedition, insurrection, breaking and entering, destruction of federal property, inciting a riot, etc etc This can’t be swept under the rug as a few proud boys having some fun! It was no accident and Trump et al are clearly to blame and some kind of justice must prevail.
That feeling of needing some accountability for these abhorrent actions seems to be growing even in the 36-ish-some hours since the insurrection, Kevin, so it will be interesting to see how it winds up playing out, given the time constraints, the demands of the transition, rampaging Covid, Trump’s cabinet members resigning (way too late to impress me, but whatever), and the huge turmoil in the Republican Party itself. I’m beginning to think the party may not survive without cracking in two, since the Trump wing isn’t much interested in anything but unbending fidelity to their leader, and that leader basically declares war on anyone who doesn’t demonstrate that fidelity. Just where does the Bush family and the Bulwark crew, et al, go for a political home?
I believe the 25th Amendment has already “unofficially” happened – given the actions of the Vice-President, both House and Senate Leaders, current and former Secretaries of Defense, et cet.. He will be prevented from doing anything catastrophic in the next 13 days, in my view. Speaker Pelosi may begin an impeachment hearing as a statement, but there is clearly not enough time to make that happen; perhaps a censure could be pulled off. The House and Senate Republicans, such as Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz, continue to obstruct. ( I stayed up late last night, hoping to see the “statesmen” in Congress cease the electoral objections proceedings, but they did not!).
President Biden’s ( has a nice ring to it) cabinet selections today bode well for the restoration of trust in our judicial system, and perhaps some real progress in race relations and policing in the country.
I agree that Trump isn’t likely to do anything to bring down the world in the next 13 days, Gerry—I suspect he’d be blocked from various sides if he wanted to start a nice little war with Iran or North Korea. May still decide to wreak some havoc with his domestic terrorist buddies, or some stunt like an inauguration day rally, but it looks like the DC police force would be ready for them this time…(And isn’t this just the weirdest thing ever that we’re even talking about something like this regarding the president of the United States?) And in lieu of the impeachment and even criminal indictment that he REALLY deserves, I like the idea of a censure at the very least—didn’t know that was part of the congressional toolkit.
Yes, brilliant pick on Garland in particular as AG today, eh? Very happy about that, for him, and for our country.
Thanks for that powerful John Fogarty song/video.
One of the many feelings I had yesterday as the insurgents/rioters when interviewed kept saying that the Capitol was “their house” was, well, it is my house too, and the house of everyone who condemns their actions, and I want you out of my Capitol.
Exactly right, Harriet. Those loonballs who invaded the Capitol were a minority of a minority, mouthing the same tired pap that Trump, right wing media & QAnon have been spoonfeeding them for years. It was heartbreaking to watch them soil the people’s house as they did, especially given their relentless claims of being super patriots. I didn’t see love of country or anything else on those faces—just the joy of juveniles bent on destruction and the bizarre worship of a madman.