Sometimes I forget what country I’m living in.
What country we’re living in.
Because like you, I’ve been ignoring the national political stuff lately. Why? Just tired of it, I guess. And distracted. Between the brief window of Thanksgiving — 28 people for dinner at our house — and the unexpected warm weather, there was fun to be had. It was just too dreary to turn away from local life, blink hard, lean in, squint, and take a good hard close look at the proceedings out in Washington.
I’m sure I’m not alone here.
But the past couple of days ... there’s the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection holding former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt for defying its subpoena. The panel’s releasing emails of various Fox News hosts urging Donald Trump to call off his mob.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Fox News incendiary Laura Ingraham texted Meadows. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
By “us” she didn’t mean the media. Nor did she mean Americans, generally. Ingraham meant die-hard Trump supporters like herself and Fox News. That night she led her newscast by suggesting that Antifa might be behind the insurrection.
Even Donald Trump Jr. urged his father to do something.
“We need an Oval address,” Donnie texted. “He has to lead now.”
But Trump was leading. Leading a mob into the Capitol to overturn the election he lost by 7 million votes.
So he stood by and smirked at the fire he set. When that didn’t work, he hammered the big lie of voter fraud. And most Republicans bought it.
A situation so hard to accept that it’s easy to forget. Easy for a moment, reading these texts, to fancy that maybe, possibly, we live in a nation where this would be a Significant Development. That those who stood with Trump over the past 49 weeks — not to mention for the past five years — might finally see exactly what the situation was: our democracy in peril. The president chuckling and waiting to see if his clown coup could overturn a free and fair election in the United States.
That maybe those who have tolerated our nation’s slide into totalitarianism, even encouraged it, might finally see the even greater peril we are in now.
So it took a moment to remember, the way you awake the day after something awful happened and there is a single second of sweet oblivion, then it all comes rushing back: we don’t live in that country. Not anymore. We live in a country, now and for the foreseeable future, where 40% of Americans believe literally any lie they are told to believe, any fiction they prefer to believe, whatever imaginary reality floats their boat.
Don’t like COVID-19? Annoyed at wearing a mask? Irked at being told to get a shot? Simply proclaim that masks don’t work, that COVID isn’t real, the vaccines are poison.
Or do you love Trump? Because he’s ... please remind me ... so successful, yes, that’s it, such a successful businessman who didn’t really burn through all those billions of other people’s money, but rather was bold and brave and eager, ready to boldly, bravely denounce all those people you want to be free to hate again, Mexicans and Muslims and whomever. Who lets you work out on liberals all day, every day. As if the scorn of dupes in thrall to a traitor carries much weight with those trying to keep America a free place where citizens can vote and those votes matter.
Not to let the Democrats off the hook. It’s almost been a year. The low-level Jan. 6 insurrectionist mob has been swept up. But the leaders, Trump et al., should have been indicted long ago. Maybe that’s coming. The law crawls, I know that. But in a little more than a year the Republicans might take over the House and maybe the Senate, too, and all this stops. Time is not our friend.
Nor is truth, not really. Those who put stock in truth are in a sense deceived ourselves, because we assume, incorrectly, that because facts matter to us, they’re going to matter to everybody. And that obviously isn’t true. None of this has any effect on them, not now, not ever. Because once you start ignoring reality, the specifics of the reality being ignored don’t matter. It’s easy to forget that.