Days of Remembrance
I remember the observance of Memorial Day at a time when some still called it “Decoration Day.” I was a child. It was a solemn day set aside for remembering and honoring the dead. My father would gather me up in the early morning and we would fill our car with flowers and tools to decorate the graves of departed family members. At noon, all activities would stop as local veterans and high school band members would congregate around a makeshift podium for the Memorial Day program honoring veterans of all wars. I was an early boomer, born in 1948. Dad had served in World War II along with almost every dad we knew. What I remember most of those ceremonies was not the speeches and the preening politicians who gave them, but for the playing of Taps and the gun salute that followed. The crowd was hushed and respectful throughout, but at the sound of the bugle call, there was a reverence and a lowering of heads in recognition of the sacrifices of all the veterans, but especially the war dead. Without fail, when I gazed up at my Dad, there was a tear in his eye. He was a bugler and the sound brought back memories that were too difficult to hold in.
January 6, 2021
“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”
― Jonathan Swift
As anniversaries go, this one is among the non-celebratory remembrances. Like some other “calendar date” observances, Monday, January 6, 2020, brings no joy or reason to celebrate, It belongs to a list of solemn events that we remember because they are reserved in our history as dates “which will live in infamy” alongside memorials like 10/28/29 (stock market crash), 11/22/63 (Kennedy assassination), 6/17/72 (Watergate), and 9/11/01. To be sure, there are others and some are more top of mind than others, but what occurred on January 6 last year will remain among the most infamous because unlike the others, it was truly an inside job. January 6, 2020, called into question the very foundations of our nation and the susceptibility of many to the prodding of evil wicked men. It uncovered the fragile underpinnings that were inherent in our uneasy experiment in democracy. Some might suggest that we are being undone by our reluctance to confront the imperfections and limited vision of forefathers. These were men at the end of the 18th century who tried to invent a new order---visionaries who seemed so ahead of their times. Their brilliance was dimmed by their own limitations and experiences as “men of their times.” In retrospect, our limitations are the common byproduct of those that afflicted our founders---human nature. Their fight. like ours, was always about divisive forces within rather than threats from without.
A Recurrent Theme
In the year that has gone by since the insurrection, the mania has not subsided. The rabid followers remain unconvinced that their government is legitimate even in the face of mounds of evidence to the contrary. A once great political party has been reduced to a conspiratorial dung heap of lies and distortion. Republican leadership knows better but chooses to go along for fear of reprisals and loss of political power. The Republican Party of Abe Lincoln has become a party of shame.
So, this anniversary will be long remembered by a divided America with divided loyalties. Not since the Civil War have we taken sides against one another and invited an end to this experiment in self-governance. A June 2021 Monmouth University poll taken 6 months after the insurrection reported that 32% of Americans believed that Donald Trump was denied the presidency in the past election. In comparison, the Civil War was similarly divided with 11 states of the 34 as of January 1861 forming the Confederacy ---approximately 32%. The latest polling suggests that the fog is lifting, yet still one-quarter of us—and over 50% of all Republicans— disbelieve reality.
The coming “anniversary” is haunted by the realization that the coup leaders are still free. Donald Trump is ensconced in Mar-A-Lago and his lieutenants remain free to continue the lie. The stance being taken by Republican officeholders in the House and Senate, many of whom on the day of the insurrection were shaken to sanity, only intensifies the reality that their party is intent on using political violence to maintain power despite their knowledge of the truth. Their inaction on measures that would ensure our democracy is secured is repugnant. What is worse, however, is that they feel no shame as evidenced by their continued attacks on our civil and voting rights in statehouses across the country. They feel no need to preserve even those seminal constitutional rights. The brazen obstruction of the Senate in denying those rights and in abandoning even the pretense of bipartisanship is further proof that the party itself is now the party of sedition and is in seditious lockstep with those in active rebellion of the rightful government.
A Reckoning Come Due
It is now past time that the DOJ begins to act in defense of the constitution and the majority of Americans. While it is somewhat heartening to follow the aggressive investigation undertaken against the Trump business dealings by the Southern District of NY and the NY District Attorney’s Office, allowing Donald Trump to escape his guilt for what he fomented on January 6th is not an option. It is well to remember that the 6th was not a singularity, but was a culmination of a disgraced and criminal presidency that was preserved by the same Republicans who found themselves under attack under the dome of the Capitol— a space they dishonored by twice acquitting him. Their cowardice and indulgence merely emboldens Trump who still is hell-bent on selling out the nation and what was left of their pride. Their place in history will forever be preserved, gilded in shame and recrimination.
In the end, the observance on the first anniversary of that dark day has been overtaken by the apprehension we all still feel about our future. The impact in a way is even more pressing on those of us who reject the lie and who value truth. The effect it has had on all of us is like a curse that needs to be expurgated—and once removed, saves us all. Shame is a complex emotion, one that suggests an awareness of wrongdoing or dishonor. Psychologists describe it as having the dual effect of causing a self-conscious unpleasantness for “immodest or dishonorable behavior” while playing a temporizing role in adapting harmful and excessive behavior. I fear Carl Jung was more honest about the proceeds of shame:
“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.”
And so, on this anniversary of a failed coup, what is left of their soul continues to be buried in their shame and our sense of loss--- of friends, neighbors, family—and kinship with our fellow countrymen.
If my father were still alive, I would wager that on this anniversary of the failed coup on behalf of the shameless wannabe-despot, the old bugler would recall that haunting tune and shed another tear for his country.