I have tried to give myself some distance from what happened in our nation’s capital. But I can’t. I long for some way to view it dispassionately, to calmly pull apart the various pieces and examine how we got to the point where armed insurrectionists invaded Washington, DC. But I can’t get past that moment when I first saw the invasion of our capital. All I could do was cry.
I am by all accounts an old lady. My generation was raised by the generation that survived the Great Depression and won the Second World War. They viewed America as a great nation capable of great things. In my neighborhood in particular, filled as it was with Italian immigrants, American patriotism was a given, displayed proudly on every occasion. At my little Catholic grade school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day before starting our work. The only thing more sacred than that was the appearance of Msgn. Giammarino when he visited our class.
Given the way I was raised, I thought fighting for the America I wanted was the right thing to do. So I joined the war protestors of the sixties. I went to DC in a bus full of Quakers from Philly. I sat with the crowd in front of the Pentagon while Timothy Leary assured us we could levitate the building with our collective minds and shake the badness out of it. Ok, maybe he was tripping at the time but it was worth the effort.
The thing is, it never occurred to me to try to storm into the building or bring weapons to the protest. And that’s not just because I was with a group of Quakers. While protesting is a proud and time honored tradition, destroying the seat of our government is not. This is exactly why I was in DC with Friends and not with the groups advocating violent overthrow of the government.
I still believe that if you have a problem with government in America – city, state or national – then by all means go out and air your grievances as loudly as you want. But those grievances have to have some grounding in reality or they are just lies being told to stir up the population. And that, to my mind, was where the group that trashed DC recently took the wrong turn. They swallowed whole the lies being told them by their cult leader. They then repeated those lies loudly and frequently as though that would somehow make the lies the truth. Finally, they led a violent revolt when actual reality did not jibe with their reality. They were not protestors. They were domestic terrorists trying to take over our government and our way of life.
In my youth, I thought no president in my lifetime could be worse than Richard Nixon. The man was really rather scummy. He lied. Was a racist. Tried to manipulate elections. Broke laws with impunity. How could America ever elect someone worse? And then along came Donald Trump to prove that there is always a lower level we just didn’t notice before. Like most Banana Republic dictators, he speaks loudly, encourages violence and then goes home to watch it all on TV from the safety of the White House. As his cult members get arrested, he disavows them, claiming he never meant for them to do what they did even though in his own words that day, that’s exactly what he told them to do.
Richard Nixon opened China and created the EPA. Despite his final disgrace, those achievements alone will provide him some positive cover in years to come as historians evaluates administrations. Trump created a wall people can climb over, invented the American day care concentration camp and incited insurrection while allowing his children to rob the country blind. You can see why I am re-evaluating my opinion of Nixon.
In my generation, protestors marched to end war, poverty and racism. Today’s terrorists marched to obliterate our America in order to create their own. In that version, I’m guessing most black, brown and yellow people will have to go somewhere else. This is what America has been reduced to, not just by Trump, but by allowing our own baser instincts to take hold.
I am proud I marched in Washington in 1967. I doubt any of the recent marchers will be able to say the same thing fifty years from now.