Erecting a billboard for the blind

The Jan. 6 committee hearings are laying out evidence for a country where half the citizens stopped processing facts long ago.

SHARE Erecting a billboard for the blind
At the first hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, this picture was displayed. It showed a mock gallows built on the Capitol grounds the day of the attack.

The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first hearing Thursday. Among the items displayed was this picture of a mock gallows that was built on the Capitol grounds the day of the attack.

Associated Press

Once you get in the habit of ignoring reality, the specifics of the reality being ignored hardly matter.

That’s a key to understanding what’s going on right now, but not something that gets stated plainly. So I’ll say it again:

Once you get in the habit of ignoring reality, the specifics of the reality being ignored hardly matter.

Opinion bug

Opinion

Remember when Donald Trump bragged he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote? An uncharacteristic thing for him to say, in that it was true. But subsequent events bear him out, and we free of his mesmeric influence should never forget it. He doesn’t lead a party, but a cult. If your followers believe in you no matter what you do or say, then they are acolytes, not citizens. It’s faith: God is good no matter how many landslides He sends, sweeping away the village school. Ditto for Trump. He is their god. They certainly adore him like a deity.

The U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol began public hearings Thursday. While part of the country tuned in, aghast and enthralled, a significant segment dismissed it out of hand, ahead of time, reflexively, easily, the way they smirk at climate change and shrug off gun violence. Fox News didn’t even carry Thursday’s hearing.

The facts presented are clear. After Trump lost the 2020 election, he tried to hold onto power by coining the lie that he had actually won, based on nothing but bluster, then bullied and pressured others to either believe him or act as if they did. He knew this wasn’t true, but he didn’t care. Nor did his followers. When Trump could not marshal enough compliant officials to reject the votes cast by the American people, he summoned a mob to Washington D.C. and set it on the Capitol at the exact moment Congress was certifying the election. It was an attempted coup.

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump clash with police and security forces at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump clash with police and security forces at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump supporters stormed the building, breaking doors and windows to get in, hoping to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

Getty

None of what was said at the hearing was news. Maybe Fox was right to ignore it. Like the hypothetical Fifth Avenue shooting, it won’t cost him a single vote. I’ve never, ever heard from a former Trump supporter. Not once. If all that has transpired has not shaken their faith, what is the chance that notorious turncoat Liz Cheney will? Zero.

I’m a little sorry the hearings are happening, because they offer the illusion that the truth might yet set us free. Naive. If democracy dies in the United States, and anybody in the future cares about how it happens, they should understand the role its supposed defenders played. While the Republicans were carefully erecting the scaffold to hang American democracy in 2024, the Democrats were collecting old splinters and trying to reconstruct the gallows that almost worked in 2020. These hearings are like doing a credit check on a crook while he’s beating you with a pipe. Totalitarians cannot be persuaded. They can only be defeated.

And maybe this’ll do it. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. But how many times has that not happened? We sailed past Lucy and the football long ago. The Republicans don’t have a monopoly on self-delusion, sadly.

Ignoring reality isn’t new. It’s not a flaw, but a feature. Remember slavery? How did white people ever convince themselves that they had a right to hold other people in chattel bondage? That’s easy: they decided the slaves weren’t people at all, but an inferior race, happy to live their lives in forced servitude. That took long-term, willful mass blindness. Reality was blurred to suit a purpose. It kept on with Jim Crow. No fair person who visited a white school and a Black school could have uttered the nonsense phrase, “Separate but equal.” The truth sat in plain view, for centuries, ignored.

I’ll watch the hearings, which resume Monday morning. But even if there are jaw-dropping bombshells coming, they’re preaching to the choir while the congregation is outside, dancing around, shaking Trump timbrels, and buffing the shining golden calf with their long hair.

Because once you get in the habit of ignoring reality, the specifics of the reality being ignored hardly matter.

The Latest
I just wanted to go to this parade and enjoy the day. And then the shooting started.
The child was in the backyard of his home in the 4300 block of West Crystal Street when he was hit around 10:10 p.m., according to Chicago police.
Naive predictions for all 32 picks to be made during the first round Thursday, plus the Blackhawks’ top pick of 38th overall.
The accused’s father and grandparents believe he should be handling the predicament on his own instead of letting his mother take charge.
Former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias got 52.7% of the vote to Valencia’s 34.4% to succeed Jesse White as secretary of state.