Recently, I have been reading “Twilight of the Gods,” by Ian W. Toll. It is a vivid account of the brutal war fought in the Pacific. He tells the history of the massive sea, air and land battles, which raged over vast ocean expanses.
Toll reports dramatic stories of remarkable courage shown by determined Americans in a deadly struggle against the Empire of Japan. Heroism was commonplace. Victory hard won.
Patriotism during World War II was the rule on the battlefields, seas and the home front. The United States was fully committed to the unconditional surrender of Japan, which stood alone but was still incredibly dangerous even after the defeat of its Axis partners, Germany and Italy.
The Japanese began the war with a sudden and deliberate sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an address to Congress, memorably called it “a date that will live in infamy.”
Within the book’s 926 pages, Toll describes myriad incidents of personal heroism and sacrifice by American servicemen and women. After digesting his moving words, I wondered, how was it possible that on Jan. 6, 2021, 76 years later, the descendants of some of those great patriots could engage in a violent insurrection against the government of the United States?
How could thousands of children and grandchildren of those World War II heroes be so motivated by hatred that they could attack the capital of the American government? How could they possibly believe 77 days of blatant election fraud lies by President Trump, who incited the Jan. 6 insurrection? How could the attackers refuse to accept the constitutional certification of the votes by the Electoral College? How could they seek to hang Vice President Mike Pence and kill Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?
How could former military and law enforcement personnel become part of such a deadly mob? It murdered Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and savagely beat other brave cops who were defending the Capitol. One defender lost an eye. Two committed suicide. Many insurrectionists brought knives, bats, clubs and even a sledgehammer, and beat the capital defenders brutally with flag poles. Five people died during the melee.
A number of the insurrectionists were members of QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy theory cult that believes former President Donald Trump was under assault by Satan worshipers. They embrace a wide range of often bizarre and unsubstantiated beliefs.
One of the first rioters to charge up the stairs leading to the Senate chamber was wearing a QAnon T-shirt. They, like the red MAGA hat wearers, have been easily identified. Approximately 400 have been arrested, and 140 charged with crimes. The FBI is working to confirm the names, addresses and possible illegal actions of others. The FBI describes QAnon as a “potential domestic terrorist threat.” By its gross criminal behavior, it is an “actual threat to peace and tranquillity.”
Was what happened on Jan. 6 an aberration, or was it something far more dangerous to our democracy? I would say it is the latter.
With some conservative television networks still casting doubts about the legitimacy of the election, and millions of Trump voters still believing the election was rigged, America still may have much to fear in the uncertain days ahead.
President Abraham Lincoln believed, in the weeks before taking office in 1861, that rebellion could be avoided. He was wrong and millions died in America’s Civil War. That Confederate flags were flaunted in the rotunda to make political statements on Jan. 6 surely demonstrates that our democracy is still far more fragile than one might wish. Until Republican representatives and senators are willing to tell their constituents the truth about the honesty of the last presidential election, fear, disunity and danger will continue to haunt us.
Jan. 6, 2021 will be remembered as a second date in American history that “will live in infamy.” To mitigate some of the stain caused by the assault on our democracy, senators should vote to convict twice-impeached, now former President Donald Trump for incitement to riot and sedition. They should also vote to ban him from ever holding public office again. If the Senate fails to convict Trump, it will be acknowledging that seditious incitement to riot is acceptable behavior. In the United States of America there must never again be a reason or season for treason.