There Is a Fire in the House of Democracy
COMMENTARY

September 30, 2020 by Leonard Pitts
American democracy on display in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Just last week, the headlines were inescapable.

They stemmed from a story in The Atlantic detailing what amounts to the Republican Party plotting a coup. Which is to say, cooking up Electoral College schemes designed to keep Donald Trump in office even if voters turn him out. Even worse, Trump himself explicitly refused to say he would respect the judgment of the electorate. For a couple days, it dominated the news, this shocking confirmation of our worst fears, the brazen theft of a nation.

Again, that was last week. This week, it feels as if all that happened in another lifetime. Now we’re mesmerized by a New York Times report that has Trump paying less in taxes than a part-time worker at a fast-food joint. And his former campaign manager being hospitalized after drunkenly trying to kill himself. And, oh yes, the first presidential debate.

In the Trump era, news moves at the speed of chaos. As a result, our concentration is atomized to the point of nothingness, our ability to pay attention fractured like china. That which should absolutely stop the presses, that which should grab us by the shoulders and shake us like rag dolls, that which should count as a four-alarm fire in the house of democracy, has all the staying power of soap bubbles and dew.

Suppose they held a coup and nobody noticed? Well, what would have seemed unthinkable four years ago is anything but in 2020.

Maybe that should tell us something. Indeed, though some of us have been arguing that America is a nation in danger of collapse, a writer named Indi Samarajiva disagrees. He says we’re already there. And he should know.

“I lived through the end of a civil war,” he writes in a new piece on Medium.com. “I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

“This,” continues Samarajiva, “is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever-rising outrages. People suffering, dying and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.”

One is reminded of the old proverb about the frog in the pot of water. Look at all that now passes for normal: thousands of Americans each week die from a pandemic, formerly apolitical government agencies now serve Trump’s political needs, so-called militias roam our streets, protests are ordinary, corruption is routine, lies are common, ignorance is every day and now this: Republicans blithely planning a coup.

As a result, we live a “normal” that grows stranger every day. We work from home and date on Zoom. Voting now requires an elaborate plan. You don’t know if you can trust the CDC. The American military fires upon peaceful American protesters. Face masks have become fashion statements.

There is something heroic in human adaptability, shaping oneself to a new normal when the old one is destroyed. That which does not bend, after all, breaks.

But there is also something to be said for the refusal to adapt when the cause is righteous. And this one is. Trump and his henchmen claim nothing less than the power to reject the will of the people. To accept that is to accept not just the theft of the nation, but the death of the nation — the irrevocability of our collapse.

There is a fire in the house of democracy. Let no one adapt to that.

© 2020 MIAMI HERALD

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

Fossil Fuel Investments in Africa are Necessary for Economic Growth and Climate Resiliency
Opinions
Fossil Fuel Investments in Africa are Necessary for Economic Growth and Climate Resiliency

The Biden Administration has made climate change one of its core policy priorities. Understanding the global nature of the problem, as well as U.S. leadership in technology exports and international markets, the reality of the crisis demands that we confront global warming emissions both abroad and... Read More

What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic
Opinions
What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic

Memorial Day Weekend will be the first time millions of Americans have traveled in 14 months, signaling the possible end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But another virus, this one causing a cyber- attack on one of the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline, nearly upended these... Read More

To Build Back Better, Look to the States
Opinions
To Build Back Better, Look to the States

The continued implementation of the American Rescue Plan across the country reflects exactly the type of bold and aggressive action from Washington that candidate Biden promised when he told the country how he would lead us through this challenging time. It also illuminates the huge role... Read More

Can Companies Really Talk Politics at the Dinner Table?
Opinions
Can Companies Really Talk Politics at the Dinner Table?

With American adults spending over 2 hours per day on social media sites, businesses are no longer just anonymous entities that supply goods and services.  They are influencing people on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, participating in conversations with clear personalities while expressing opinions. The most successful... Read More

Employers Beg for Workers: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’
Opinions
Employers Beg for Workers: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’
May 12, 2021
by John Kass

Have you ever wondered what happens to flat-earthers? Not all spend their days eating pudding with plastic spoons and rewatching old sitcoms — or as fabulists hanging at the end of the bar, boasting of their heroic exploits until closing time. Some become president of the... Read More

We Must not Forget that Republicans Tried to Overturn the Election
Opinions
We Must not Forget that Republicans Tried to Overturn the Election
May 10, 2021
by Robert B. Reich

America prefers to look forward rather than back. We’re a land of second acts. We move on. This can be a strength. We don’t get bogged down in outmoded traditions, old grudges, obsolete ways of thinking. We constantly reinvent. We love innovation and disruption. The downside... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top