It seems safest to start today’s offering with Aristotle. This has long been one of my favorites of his aphorisms.
Anybody can become angry — that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
Two days ago, the entire world witnessed white anger run amok — an embarrassment as well as a devastation to democracy all over the world. I am sadder than I am angry this morning. What happened in the Capitol has shaken me, and I am not alone. Here’s a Letter to the Editor of today’s New York Times from Graham Marks in Alfred, NY.
“To the Editor: I am trying to sit with why the events at the Capitol affected me so strongly. I think what we witnessed was the psychic violation of the country. No matter how one feels about Congress, it is a kind of sacred space of struggle and history, and it was invaded. I think it was a collective blow to us all.”
Mr. Marks is right. His words explained my shaky feelings in a way I could finally grasp them. At the risk of sounding dramatic, we have all been violated. Everyone reacts to a transgression of boundaries — another way to say violated — differently because we all encode it differently in our bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits. The last time America had this experience collectively was 9.11.2001. That day is partially why we recognize this day. Then, we rallied for one another. What now?
A lot happened yesterday in the aftermath of what went down on Wednesday. Here are some highlights:
Ø “Teleprompter Trump is back,” per the Politics page. Reading insincerely from a script, Trump posted a video on Twitter denouncing the mob attack. He initially resisted taping the video.
Ø The Capitol Police chief and the Senate sergeant-at-arms resigned.
Ø Nancy Pelosi called for President Trump to be stripped of his powers through the 25th Amendment or to be impeached again. An impeachment conviction would disqualify him from running in 2024.
Ø VP Pence, who for four years had remained loyal to Mr. Trump to the point of obsequiousness, was angry at the president’s public lashing.
Ø Trump finally conceded defeat. Well, maybe not defeat so much, but he did concede that a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th which is as good as I expect we’ll ever get.
The Quotation of the Day comes from President-Elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., on the disparity in how members of the mob were treated on Wednesday compared with the way protesters of color were treated last year. “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”
Roxane Gay draws a chilling pair of portraits. “There are two images. In one, National Guard troops, most with no identifying information on their uniforms, stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in anticipation of violence from people peacefully protesting the killing of George Floyd.
“In the second image, thousands of protesters — domestic terrorists, really — swarm the Capitol. They wear red MAGA hats and carry Trump flags and show their faces because they want to be seen. They don’t seem to fear the consequences of being identified.”
Javad Khazaeli, a lawyer representing several of the plaintiffs from the summer, said, “It couldn’t be a more perfect example for everybody to see the two different criminal justice systems we have in America.”
The discrepancy between the two only reinforces Mr. Biden’s words, and draws a horrifying portrayal of our country. Paul Krugman asserts that “appeasement is what got us to where we are. It has to stop, now.” Agreed.
“Unfortunately, I think what the president showed yesterday is he believes he’s more important than the system, bigger than the office,” Chris Christie told the radio show host Brian Kilmeade. “And I think he’s going to learn that that was a very, very big miscalculation.” Probably. But how quickly can that learning come home to roost?
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) calls for “these rioters [to] be held responsible for their criminal actions. So should the president who incited them.” She also calls for “the vice president, cabinet members, and Republican members of the Senate to hold the president accountable in a way they never have before.”
This accountability is what has not happened during the Trump campaigns or the Trump administration, perhaps the Trump lifetime. Person after person, from Big Business gleefully licking their chops at the tax breaks given to the wealthy and to corporations to politicians at all levels of government, has turned a blind eye, a deaf ear, and a wishy-washy mouth to what Michelle Obama rightly called on Twitter, “a man so obviously willing to burn our democracy down for his own ego.”
Senator Gillibrand asserts that “When they fail to take decisive action, history will judge them as complicit.” But will it? If we the people insist upon it, it will.
With those three words, I finally found my anger, and believe me, it feels a hundred times better than the sad disappointment that weighed down my spirit earlier. I am not a believer in punishment for punishment’s sake, but I am a staunch believer in accountability and consequences for our actions. To attempt to avoid either is the mark of a psycho-sociopath.
Roxane Gay, no other word for it, nails it when she takes us back into the hallowed halls of the newly-secured Capitol building. “Politicians peacocked and pontificated in condescending ways about the Constitution and flawed state voting procedures that, in fact, worked perfectly. Senator Ben Sasse smarmed about being neighborly and shoveling snow. He took a bizarre, jovial tone as if all the moment called for was a bit of charm. Senator Mitt Romney tried to take the role of elder statesman, expressing the level of outrage he should have shown over the past four years. It was all pageantry — too little, too late.”
Sadly, yes, way too little, way too late. Charm isn’t an answer here; neither is gravitas. What is required here after the purifying blaze of appropriate anger is measured, unmistakably clear, action that is the application of the fullest extent of the law.
Starting with the president, his family, his associates, his abettors, his aides, his assigns. It’s a network that connects the dots from high levels of the judiciary into the higher levels of Big Business down to local sheriffs back around to white supremacists through the media and law enforcement across this country and lands smack dab back in the midst of the 117th Congress, some of whose members tried to overthrow the government two days ago. They all need to be brought up on felony charges. That way, none of them will be able to hold elected office ever again.
Jamelle Bouie maintains that “It was an assault on Congress and Congress must act.” He explains that to use the 25th Amendment to remove the president is “backward. A physical attack on Congress by violent Trump supporters egged on by the president demands a direct response from Congress itself. Impeachment and conviction is that response. To rely on the executive branch to get Trump out of the White House is to abdicate the legislature’s constitutional responsibility to check presidential lawbreaking.”
There’s been enough abdication, Beloved, in fact, way too much. It’s time for moral backbone, the enforcement of the law, and consequences to behaviors unbecoming.
Roxane Gay’s soaring prose filled my heart with hope right alongside the anger. Perhaps strange bedfellows, but no stranger than those we have witnessed for the past five years. Peer into the future with Ms. Gay and me. “If the Democrats dare to use the power they have amassed, a brave new world might be possible.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll undoubtedly hear the argument that now is the time for centrism and compromise and bipartisan efforts. That argument is wrong. There is no compromise with politicians who amass power, hoard it, and refuse to relinquish it when the democratic process does not work in their favor. There is no compromise with politicians who create a set of conditions that allow a coup attempt to take place, resulting in f[ive] deaths, countless injuries, and irreparable damage to the country both domestically and internationally. These people do not care about working with their colleagues on the other side of the proverbial aisle. They have an agenda, and whenever they are in power, they execute that agenda with precision and discipline. And they do so unapologetically.”
Outrageously, that agenda has been in place since the Civil War and its aftermath. It is an agenda that needs to die already. It has done enough damage.
Ms. Gay again, “It’s time for Democrats to use their power in the same way and legislate without worrying about how Republican voters or politicians will respond. Cancel student loan debt. Pass another voting rights act that enfranchises as many Americans as possible. Create a true path to citizenship for undocumented Americans. Implement a $15 minimum hourly wage. Enact ‘Medicare for all.’ Realistically, only so much is possible with a slender majority in the Senate, but the opportunity to make the most of the next two years is there.
“With the power they hold, Democrats can try to make this country a more equitable and generous place rather than one where the interests of the very wealthy and powerful are the priority.”
“On Wednesday, the world bore witness to white supremacy unchecked. I nearly choked on the bitter pill of what white people who no doubt condemned Black Lives Matter protesters as ‘thugs’ felt so entitled to do.”
In thirteen days, the whole country — whether we like it or not — undergoes a reset as a new administration is sworn in. There is no more space for peacocking and pontificating. There is a place now for righteous anger, accountability, and a prayer that, as Michelle Obama exhorted us all, “every American, especially those who disagree with them, will give our new Congress, President-Elect Biden, and Vice President-Elect Harris the chance to lead us in a better direction.”
And, as always, Beloved, the place to start is with you, right where you are, right now. Allow me respectfully to rephrase Aristotle, Anybody can become a blessing — that is easy; but to be a blessing with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. Nevertheless, Beloved, we are each and all called to be a blessing to one another. I will heed that call. Will you?
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com