Additional references at end of this post.
A year ago today, January 6, 2021, was the Pearl Harbor warning for the future of our democracy and our republic. Pearl Harbor was far more than just a single day in December, 1941. There was history preceding it, which few bother to learn; and WWII after….
I ask you to take the time to really get to know Jan. 6, 2021, what preceded and what followed, and not only from your own bias, and reflect on how you, personally, are a most integral part of your and our future as a nation and society. Personal opinion: divided into ‘tribes’, as we are, we cannot survive….
Personally, I’ve always trended towards optimism about the future – it’s just my nature. 2022 forward is a big struggle. We have been well taught to despise each other; to believe facts are fake and vice versa, on and on. There truly are more ways to communicate less. For just a single example: we no longer have a local newspaper, which was a forum for sharing opinions. Now we can isolate into social media groups and pretend there is no other valid opinion. I’ve begun lobbying for a community conversation about public schools, as we did in this school district in 1999. It succeeded then; understandably, there is little interest at this moment. I’ll keep suggesting this, as I can. It worked.
The two photos below were the first and last of 32 pictures I took while witnessing the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. You will note at the upper left in both photos the television time stamp of the photos: 2:59 and 4:06 p.m., Eastern time. Personally, this is where my education began – about the unraveling of democracy in 2020. Hindsight, there was plenty of evidence before, too, but it was easier to ignore.
I don’t recall any other year where I paid attention to Jan. 6. Except for 2000, when the Supreme Court decided the election of President on Dec. 12 (Bush v Gore), once election week was over in November, life simply went on. I was only vaguely aware of Jan. 6. It was simply a procedural day.
Last year differed, and the insanity continues. Here’s my post for January 6, 2021. About noon that day, I decided to tune in, having little clue about what was about to transpire. I spent much of the afternoon witnessing a national outrage and tragedy play out in front of my eyes. Those photos burn Jan. 6 in my memory, as the explosion of the USS Arizona on Dec. 7 reminds me of my uncle Frank Bernard’s death on the ship. Jan. 6, 2021, was Americans vs America.
I watched orchestrated unrest which turned out to have been planned and coordinated in my own and other states on that day and has continued nationwide ever since. Jan. 6 will, in my opinion, live on in deserved infamy, as Pearl Harbor has all these years. This time, though, our battered ships, our enemy, is the heavily documented invasion of our national Capitol. The threat to our own democracy is now much greater than it was Dec. 7, 1941. We will survive the pandemic. Tribalism in all its manifestations is much more of a threat.
THE LOCAL COMPONENT: This post emphasizes Alley. Alley was a local insurrection leader from my town who I accidentally came to know in 2017. To my knowledge she never went to D.C. but was a very active spear carrier here in Minnesota, a year ago, she apparently was an organizer of demonstrations at our own State Capitol on Jan. 6.
Her stage name was and I think remains “Alley Waterbury” and she was spotlighted in a long news article. Here is the article, Alley, as printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Jan. 16, 2021. It is worth your time. Disclosure: I know Alley, but I haven’t seen or heard from her since our brief acquaintance in 2017.
Back in 2017, Alley was an occasional visitor to the coffee shop I frequent. I’d fix our very few conversations to about mid-2017. She was probably in her 40s, grew up and lived in my town. When she came in she visited with others who I didn’t know personally.
At one point, she expressed concern about sex trafficking anticipated at the 2018 Super Bowl, scheduled for Minneapolis. It seemed a legitimate enough concern. I did know a teen at risk of exploitation, so I paid attention. That was Alley’s entree.
Politics entered. I recall she was upset about some past demonstration which apparently had happened at a Republican Congressman’s home in our community of Woodbury. I knew nothing about it. I didn’t and don’t know the issue or the players. To my knowledge the congressman lived and lives in Woodbury but represented another MN congressional district for a single term: 2017-19.
Apparently she knew him. Her complaint triggered a very unpleasant memory for me.
I had her e-mail address. I wrote her a single e-mail, pointing out to her an outrageous incident directed at me some years earlier at my home, after which I called the police. The incident was a late night ringing of our doorbell. No one was at the door, but I discovered fresh fecal matter on our doorstep. A few hours before the incident a signed letter of mine, critical of the local Republican state legislator, had appeared in the local newspaper. I don’t recall what the letter was even about. It was just a criticism…that ended with that fresh s**t on my doorstep.
This was the last contact with Alley.
Apparently her activism increased resulting in her 15 minutes of notoriety in the Minneapolis paper a year ago.
Who is Alley, really? I suspect I’ll never know.
I would guess there are plenty of similar stories out there. The zealots, as Alley, are probably small in number, but committed.
She, and the other supporters of the insurrection and disinformation, and ultimately power and control, live as they will with the outcome they desired and facilitated a year ago.
The leader of Alley’s pack, then President, was and remains a modern-day “snake oil salesman” of the very worst kind. He benefitted by contemporary technology in a way that no old time snake-oil salesman could ever dream of. He was and remains truthless.
Snake-oil is still and will always be, snake-oil. It depends on suckers who’ll buy it, and there apparently are plenty of them still around.
My opinion: The insurrection didn’t succeed a year ago, and the only way it will succeed going forward is the complacency of the rest of us.
Our job is to prevent the outrage of 2020-21 from ever happening again.
It’s in our court, totally, one person, one action, at a time.
AN ENDING NOTE:
PREDICTING OF THE FUTURE is, I think, a fools errand especially when it comes to assessment of others feelings and beliefs. But looking forward, and back, is important, nonetheless. Witness, for example, the well-dressed woman strategically seated at the coffee shop Tuesday morning, wearing a very stylish designer baseball cap with the words “Defend the Second” as its sole text.
Or the Christmas card, mailed Dec. 19, 2014, which I’ve kept all these years, from a lady my age living on a farm, some years deceased, “I pray for our country often. It is in sad shape!” I knew her well, thus what she meant.
The U.S. a nation of unparalleled wealth. Still, there are great numbers of impoverished and disadvantaged people, lots of them, but we too often pretend they are not our problem. We are such an immense nation, and so wedded to individual “responsibilitity” and “freedom” (for ourselves), that we are individually and collectively blind.
Yes, I see this in my own life, daily. The temptation is to say bad things happening are not my problem.
We have been flirting with our own destruction for years. We have chosen the course by our own demands. We deceive ourselves. We give meaning to the word “hubris”.
Last year was a horrible year, politically unprecedented. (The NYT editorial for Jan 1, 2022, linked below, points out that 1891 was somewhat analogous. That was 131 years ago.)
The past provides learning opportunities. Our years long friend, Annelee, now 95, spent her first 21 years growing up in Germany, from 1926-47. She was a small town Catholic girl and saw the rise of Hitler and the Nazis first hand.
We have talked many times of her experiences there, and analogies to today. She has truly “been there, done that”. It can happen here.
The Nazis had a lot going for them in the Germany of the 1920s and 30s. There are thousands of books and movies about that history.
Their leaders were brilliant. Strategy and tactics and organization were strengths. And belief. They knew Power and how to exercise it in what was then an advanced society.
They freely talked of a 1,000 year Reich and believed it. They took over everything; the ticket to success was to be a Nazi. And conveyed their belief to their people, amplifying grievance and resentment of clearly defined others. They had lots of friends, including in our own United States. (Personally, I’m 50% German nativity.)
But the 1,000 year dream unravelled quickly. Nazi Germany had, essentially, a 10 year run, till about 1943. May 8, 1945, it was all over. Germany’s enemies helped it recover. The Nazi leaders – those who lived – were subject to judgment. The soldiers and the others who survived went back to their ruined lives, to start over.
Yes, it was a short run – this pretension of glory. We seem to be slow learners.
One of my relatives went back to visit one of our German family farms in 1954 and took a few photos. Here are two. Even with help, recovery from WWII was a long term process, even in rural areas which escaped the bombs and invasion.
I visited this same farm in 1998. The grotto was still there. It was a prosperous operation. Four of the sons of the farm were in WWII, all came home alive, none told their stories – so are the memories of war for those who get caught in it. Our friend, Annelee, lost her Dad. He refused to join the Nazi party and was drafted and it is believed he died in Russia near the end of the war. So is the fruit of war….
Near 20 years ago, during the then-young war in Iraq, I saw a quotation attributed to Hermann Goring, second only to Hitler in the Third Reich. The quotation (below) was so remarkable that I thought it must be fake, and set out to authenticate it, if possible. Ultimately, I found the quote in the very book in which it had appeared in 1947, from the American psychologist who visited often with Goring in his prison cell at Nuremberg.
The quote is one pertinent for our present day. Here it is:
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia, nor England, nor for that matter, Germany. That is understood, but after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simpler matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
(Quoted in Nuremberg Diary, p. 278, Gustave Gilbert, Farrar, Straus & Co., 1947. Gilbert was a psychologist assigned to the Nazi prisoners on trial at Nuremberg. Goring later killed himself in his cell; the fate of the other power maniacs in Nazi Germany is well known.)
Our fate as Americans rests in our own actions.
Are we up to the challenge?
ADDITIONAL REFERENCES, IF YOU WISH:
New York Times Editorial Jan. 1, 2022 NYT Editorial Jan 1, 2022. Highly recommended by our friend Annelee, who grew up in Nazi Germany is the new book “Midnight in Washington” by Adam Schiff. Commentary by Heather Cox Richardson January 2, 2022.
My related post from Dec. 31 here.
Within the next few days, before Jan 20, I will be doing a post with individual thoughts about politics ahead in 2022. Please check back. Readers can easily subscribe to this blog (see below)
COMMENTS (more may be at the on-line section):
from Jeff: Excellent essay Dick. I find the “opposition” very fragmented. Discord and disunity and complacency amongst the wiser, truer side is sadly a weakness. In my business career I found Americans in my industry (logistics, farming, agribusiness) to be usually complacent.