I haven’t written for almost a year and I’ve been thinking that my contributions to this blog were at an end. I’ve progressed significantly in the last year. My voice is usually not understandable, and I am using a wheelchair most of the time to manage my risk of falling. The disease remains variable, so things are not always bad, but I have a view now of what the end looks like, and it’s not pretty. I knew this was coming, but I honestly wasn’t ready for it. I’m not there yet, but it’s more real to me now than ever before.
I didn’t decide to break the silence to whine about my degeneration, though. I’ve been isolated for almost a year now because of COVID-19, and so my world has shrunk even more than before. I couldn’t stay silent about what I see happening in the world and in our country any longer, though. Although I no longer have much of a voice, I can still communicate, and I must while I can.
The events of this last week are unprecedented in modern American history. That word, “unprecedented,” has been getting quite a workout in the last four years, but an armed attack on the citadel of democracy, the US Capitol, incited and encouraged by a sitting President, is almost unimaginable to most thinking people. In my view, there is no way to justify the actions of the domestic terrorists that organized and executed this seditious act, and I believe that the people who encouraged it and failed to respond when it was clear what the mob intended are just as culpable as the people who savagely beat and killed a Capitol policeman during the attack. They include the President and members of the US Congress, but it’s not limited to that. We’ve been able to see this coming literally for years, and anyone who tacitly encouraged or enabled the sociopath that sits in the Oval Office should be held to account.
Most of the people who took part in this terrible episode in American history believe they were justified. They believe that their rights were being trampled, that corruption was rampant in the election process, and that they had no choice but armed rebellion. They believed this not on the strength of evidence and rational thought, but because they had been told it was true by people they trusted. Those people included friends, family members, clergy, and government officials up to and including the president of the United States, each of whom was either just as deluded or who had a dog in the fight that they weren’t being honest about. They compounded their ignorance, talking amongst themselves in the echo chamber of like minds, convincing themselves that untrue claims with zero evidence were true. Perhaps they had a predisposition to believe the lie; perhaps it was just a failure in critical thinking. For whatever the reason, they took on a mindset that was nearly impossible to sway with objective information. They had preferred sources of information, sources that they trusted, and dismissed dissenting or contradictory facts out of hand.
Comparisons are being made to the social and political situation at the beginning of World War II, and I don’t think they are inappropriate. A population filled with national pride and a feeling they had been cheated somehow, a feeling of superiority to other ethnic and social groups among many of the society’s elite, and a political structure hungry for power, led by a charismatic despot willing to tell “their people” what they wanted and needed to hear. It didn’t matter that this leader was a megalomanic who cared nothing about them; they only cared that the message scratched an itch they weren’t even consciously aware of – the need to feel a part of something, perhaps, or a desire to have simple answers to complex questions.
Our Kristallnacht happened on Wednesday – it’s up to us to decide what we do about it. The solution is complex, just like the problem. It has many moving parts, but it starts with a commitment to an ideal. This is not who we aspire to be. We’re better than this, and we’ve forgotten our core commitment to the principles that formed our country, and to each other. We’re not lost, but we can see one possible end, and it’s not pretty.
I know what my future looks like. Even with the greatest of optimism and positive thinking, Parkinson’s will win. It saddens me, but it’s now inevitable. However, I gave my health and ultimately my life to protect this experiment in American self-government, and I’ll try to protect it until my dying day.
Unlike my current experience with Parkinson’s, our future as a country is not determined. We have the freedom to change our prognosis. If we don’t undo it, when we fade from history we’ll only have ourselves to blame. A good first step is to renew our commitment to the rule of law, and ensure that President Trump is held accountable for his abject failure to have the slightest interest in the greater good of the American people or our institutions. He has failed as chief executive, and he needs to go now.