It’s rough seas living in historic times, especially when you’re a passenger. But a citizen is not just a passenger. In America you still get to write down the direction you want the ship of state to go, and to give the piece of paper to the steward.
On January 6, 2022, the massive American ship of state seemed to slow its year-long bumping along a rocky coast, and to turn with fresh engines out to sea.
I admit to feeling the wind in my face, alert to the adventure ahead, as I heard President Biden finally say in the strongest of words that Trump and crew are indeed firing at our democracy with volleys of lies and calls to violence, and that he, Biden, “will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of America”.
Sam and I often watch The PBS Newshour. Perhaps our routine began when we heard Judy Woodruff speak at Brevard College on September 19, 2019.
She told the audience at the Porter Center that the lies coming from the White House at that time must be fought by journalists armed with facts. This way citizens can make informed judgments in electing their leaders.
[Woodruff] said that a free press is vital to democracy, and Americans should keep in mind what happens in countries like Russia and China where there is no free press.
“We can never take it for granted,” she said.
This week Woodruff moderated a PBS Newshour discussion that added to my sense of a shift in the national narrative, from turbulent waters to the calm assertion of reality. I didn’t know what to do with the feeling. It felt like solid land was in sight.
Answering Woodruff’s questions, Gary Abernathy, a Washington Post columnist, worried that January 6, 2021, would be used “to politically slam the Republican Party”, and recommended “talking our way through this”.
Without hesitation, Stu Stevens, a former Republican strategist, responded,
I think that's a fantasy.
You can't negotiate with evil. How do you negotiate with the person who is in the Capitol of the United States in a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt? You don't want to meet those people halfway. You don't need to understand them. They're wrong. People who believe in democracy are right.
When Abernathy said, “our system actually worked on January 6”, Jelani Cobb, writer for the New Yorker and Columbia University professor of journalism, said,
That’s not what happened. … The system did not work, if we think about the law enforcement officers, the Capitol Police officers who lost their lives.
George Packer, writer for The Atlantic, said he has learned since January, 2021, that
Democracy depends on people … not falling under the spell of conspiracy thinking and irrational interpretations of events, and the spell of an authoritarian demagogue like Donald Trump. But one of our two major parties has fallen into that.
We must try to rescue the democracy that we love from our fellow citizens who seem determined to take it into a direction that I think is dark and destructive and that I fear very much.
I’ve noticed that history lags behind our personal reactions to the daily news. It took a year for the two warring positions in America to come clear. First, in this panel discussion we hear that January 6, 2021 was nothing beyond …
… disturbing and embarrassing. Though I’m still glad Trump was president, he should have done more to tamp down the emotions of that day. (Abernathy)
And now, out of the murky gloom comes a clear response,
“That’s not what happened.” (Cobb)
So Biden’s leadership last Thursday, and three of the four PBS panelists insisting on recognizing the facts, makes me wonder. After a year of lies, is reality finally taking the helm?