Lots of words have been spilled the last few weeks over the final days of Donald Trump’s term as president. It’s hard to imagine that my words will add anything, but I know many people avoided this news for the same reason we avoid angry crowds, congested intersections, or going to the dump. It can be hazardous to your health.
“It was treason,” my mother spat into the phone when I told her the outcome of the impeachment trial. She’d stayed away from the news to protect her blood pressure, so the precise words used in the proceedings were not on her screen. But treason was the crime for which she hoped the former president would be convicted. She felt the country was betrayed by him and by the 43 senators who let him off the hook. No better word fit the situation for her. No words I could find unsnarled the reasons given for the acquittal or even the reasons lying beneath the spoken words. She just wasn’t having any.
As a writer, I’m exhausted from trying to find words that will help. The way words have been weaponized makes them hard to trust. We put our trust instead in who says them and why. The truth is, I am not so concerned about Donald Trump’s fate: I trust providence to handle that. What I’m concerned about is the devastation he’s left behind, primarily devastation to words and our faith that they can be used rightly. My particular concern is for the millions of people who became convinced by him that our election was perverted—“stolen,” in his words—by demon-possessed liberals.
I don’t particularly like being demonized, and neither do you. It’s an outright denial of our true identity as children of God. So let’s get past that, and see what one upstanding downright former supporter of former President Trump—Republican Mitch McConnell, former Senate Majority Leader for the past six years, now Minority Leader—said, just minutes after the impeachment vote, about Trump’s version of the election.
“January 6th was a disgrace,” he began. “American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth—because he was angry he’d lost an election.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. The House accused the former President of, quote, ‘incitement.’ That is a specific term from the criminal law. Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.
“The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th. It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate [his attorney, Rudy Giuliani] urged ‘trial by combat.’ It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe; the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president [Joe Biden].
“I defended the president’s right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke. The Electoral College spoke. As I stood up and said clearly at the time, the election was settled. But that reality just opened a new chapter of even wilder and more unfounded claims. The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.”
McConnell goes on to describe Trump’s damning inaction after the mob left to attack the Capitol, also a complete “dereliction of duty” as commander in chief. Then he says “And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising criminals.
“In recent weeks, our ex-president’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism. Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters. That is an absurd deflection. Seventy-four million Americans did not invade the Capitol. Several hundred rioters did. And 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did.” That’s who’s lying, period: Donald Trump.
Was Mom right? Was it treason? And which is more treasonous, words that led hundreds of rioters to trash the Capitol, or words that led millions to believe our election system was trashed? Donald Trump manufactured the “stolen” election, according to the leading member of the party Trump took over in 2015. The question now is whether those lies will continue to hold that party hostage.
Our congressman, Devin Nunes, is one of the quislings who helped bring us to this point. His easy re-election last year suggests that there are many Republican voters in this district who have been swayed by the election lies. My hope is that the more rational members of his party can bring him around, bring him back from that edge.
All we have is mere words to work with, but maybe, spoken by the right people at this moment in time, they’re enough.
Trudy Wischemann is a former Republican who writes from the left side of Lindsay. You can send her your questionable words c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.