Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Washington Tragedy

 This post is by Roger Carlton, newspaper columnist, and my former writing student. We appreciate him sharing this column from last week's Graham Star Newspaper with us.

The best way to start a conversation is to make sure that both parties understand the keywords that will be used. Let's start with "demonstration." This means that people like environmentalist Greta Thunberg gather people together peacefully to call government to action. The second word is "protest." This means that people gather together peacefully or violently to oppose a governmental action. The Black Lives Matter protests come to mind. 

The third word is "insurrection." This means that a group of people gather with the purpose of stopping or overturning a governmental process. Insurrections are always violent. They are incited by someone or some group who want power or who have power and want to keep it. A fourth word is "incite." This means that through word or deed someone motivates a group to do something. Incite has a negative connotation usually tied to motivating a mob. 

The insurrection that happened in Washington last week was a blatant attempt to overthrow a lawful election validated by the courts. The final effort by our President to stay in power was to incite a mob to go to the Capitol to stop Congress from accepting the vote of the Electoral College. Words can be powerful and in this case, the power threatened our democracy. It doesn't take much to motivate an angry crowd to become a violent mob. The result was destruction and death in the Capitol of the greatest democracy ever known to mankind.

Who is at fault and what should be done?

Impeachment is a process that requires more time than the few days left for this president. Congress seems to be thinking bipartisan for the first time in years so why blow the opportunity that this presents for incoming President Biden to solve our many problems. The 25th Amendment requires that the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet members vote to remove the President who can then appeal to Congress to get his/her job back. Again, a spineless Cabinet would have to vote and the President would probably want to force Congress to vote. Not worth the further divisiveness that would result.

The best approach would be for Congress to censure the President in his final days in office. It would require a quick vote on a simple question. Senator and Representative, do you vote for censuring the President for his actions to stop the Congressional vote on validating the decision of the Electoral College? A simple yes or no without equivocation. We all deserve to know where our elected officials stand on this issue. 

There are so many other issues to address.

Blaming the mob for not protesting peacefully is an excuse for ignoring the President's incitement. This is called transference which means that your own failure is someone else's fault. The role of social media in broadcasting the incitement raises the need for separating First Amendment protections for individual speech from the spreading of that speech by profit-making corporations. 

The utter failure of the various agencies to protect the Capitol raises issues that need investigation. The role of the media during the storming of the Capitol was very questionable. Reporters are supposed to report the facts without emotion. That did not happen. It was not helpful to have reporters a few years out of journalism school talking about the demise of democracy or the need to impeach the President.

Our democracy will survive. Will the whirling dervishes like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell who have gone from blind support to condemnation be held accountable? Was this past week a violent catharsis that will be repeated or do the tragic events call for the beginning of a reunification process? That depends on how much poison is left in the system.



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