Among the books in my library is a series from TIME/LIFE entitled, The Decades. In words and images from 1910 to the 1990s, editors have distilled each decade’s most notable events. For example, the ’60s: Vietnam, racism, assassinations, Woodstock, the space program – each volume memorializes the triumphs and tragedies of the American landscape.
If the series continues, editors are likely to devote countless pages to the raging fires of 2020: The Coronavirus; the murder of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, and others at the hands of police; the rise of an authoritarian president who blatantly encouraged division; a Republican party poisoned and incapacitated by that president; two impeachment trials of that president culminating in his incitement of an attack on the Capitol building in early 2021 which has led to our nation’s capital becoming an armed encampment.
Like previous volumes, the 2020 chapter will include the personal stories of heroes and cowards.
Dr. Anthony Fauci would likely top of the list of heroes for his calm, and reasoned messaging about a deadly virus; Dr. Deborah Birx who fought for factual science inside the White House; thousands of health care workers who battled on the front lines; employees and founders of social media sites Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter who permanently banned a divisive and vengeful former president from the megaphone he used to spread hate, distrust and inflame violence…
…Republican Senators Murkowski, Collins, Sasse, and Romney who stood up for American democracy and voted to proceed with a second impeachment trial against that president for inciting the attack on the Capitol, stating that they would listen to the evidence and facts of the case before making a decision, unlike their Republican colleagues who promised acquittal.
Sadly, the list of cowards who know better is longer: U.S. Attorney General William Barr for his Trumpification of the law; Trump appointees who implemented policies that run counter to the majority of Americans; that segment of police whose actions led to the murders of several black citizens; Capitol insurrectionists; White Supremacists – all leading to a warning by the FBI that domestic, violent extremists are the number one terrorism threat in 2021.
A second list would represent individuals charged with leadership who modeled the words and behavior of a man they refuse to hold accountable and, by their actions, present their own ongoing threat to democracy as they obsequiously rally around that former president:
Senators Barrasso, Blackburn, Blunt, Boozman, Braun, Cotton, Cramer, Cruz, Daines, Ernest, Graham, Grassley, Hagerty, Hawley, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Johnson, Kennedy, Lankford, Lee, Lummis, Marshall, Paul, Rounds, Rubio, Rick Scott, Tim Scott, Thune, Tuberville, Wicker, and former Majority Leader McConnell.
A majority of these senators have already announced that they will vote against holding the single greatest living threat to American democracy accountable.
This is who we’ve become … a country divided … staring into the abyss of a rancorous uncivil war based on desperation, hate, and false conspiracy theories that is likely to get worse before it gets better.
And all of this occurring under the deadly darkness of a virus that continues to infect millions while continuing to claim hundreds of thousands of lives each day.
Between 1861 and 1865 — the length of a presidential term — the nation endured a great Civil War brought about largely by Southern states who felt marginalized and threatened of losing their way of life even as that way of life was built on owning human beings. The country stood at the abyss of losing democracy. After four long and horrific years of battle and loss, the leadership of Abraham Lincoln pulled the country back from that abyss.
Who will help us pull back from another?
Who will fight for truth and help us regain the moral high ground?
What will history record about these times that so severely test our souls?