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And the People Sinned a Great Sin

Dear readers,

So often throughout my career – and indeed, my private life – I’ve felt like one of the biblical prophets come down from the mountains to chastise the mutinous children of Israel. And this occasion is... regrettably... another one of those times.

Just what the hell do you knuckleheads think you're doing?

As of this writing, one woman has been shot (and will probably die) and I have no compunction in the slightest about expressing my wish that several more of you had been shot. At the very least, every single one of you should be arrested. I am in dead earnestness.

Keep in mind what you ingrates have done. You invaded the Chambers of Congress while it was in session. While it was in session! What can one conclude of your motives except that you intended to disrupt the proceedings? Did you honestly think you could somehow “steal back” the election? Were you merely goofing off? Was this all some sort of wretched cosplay?

Whatever the case, I'm none too pleased with any of you. You violated a kind of sacred temple. You crossed a kind of forbidden line. Such a thing has never happened once throughout our long experiment in self-government. Up until yesterday nobody had ever been killed inside the Capitol Building. Senator Preston Brooks once savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner in the run-up to the Civil War, but that's not exactly encouraging, is it?

You hurled abuse at the Capitol police. Some number of you, apparently, left pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic party headquarters. I lack the words to properly describe what I think of you. You’ve given the country a bloated black eye.

If I have made one thing perfectly clear since the events of this past summer, it is that I have precisely zero interest in submitting to the will of a violent mob. Go to Portland and brawl with Antifa if you’re looking for something useful to do. Better yet, sit quietly in federal prison think about what you’ve done. Whatever you do, just go.... Get out of my sight…

This obscene spectacle was immeasurably more odious than any of the alleged voter fraud which prompted it. Earlier in the Fall, I was horrified when both Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton publicly urged Joe Biden to “never concede, no matter what”. Do any of you remember that? It shook me to my core. I had never heard any American politician make such reckless and dangerous pronouncements. Yet in the intervening time between the election and now, President Trump has (somehow) surpassed those ghoulish harlequins for toxic disastrous rhetoric.

The sanctity of our elections cannot possibly be overstated. If the people lose faith in our elections, then dissolution and civil war are imminent. This is why I fully supported President Trump when he first embarked down this path. When some in my circle demanded that Trump immediately concede, I argued – persuasively, I might add – that the margin was extremely narrow in several key states. Furthermore, the states had never had the problem of so many absentee ballots, a situation pregnant with mischief.

Be patient, I said. Let him bring his cases to court, I said. Open investigations. Search for evidence. All of this should be part of a healthy, functioning republic. And President Trump did bring cases to court, and he did send his lawyers out on discovery expeditions, but alas, the evidence was always found lacking.

Without evidence, you kind of have to – how shall I put this? – shut the fuck up.

The conduct of the president has completely eroded my basis for supporting his claims. Whereas I once feared that uninvestigated allegations would have a deleterious effect on the national trust, I now realize that the larger threat was Donald Trump himself. Apparently, his vanity forbids him from ever admitting defeat, even a close defeat in which he performed better than many expected. Moreover, he seems to possess a kind of sorcerous influence over much of the country, who view him as something like the only known truth-teller in the world. This is simultaneously laughable and terrifying.

From the beginning, I had one central insight into Trump’s character and that was this: He brings out the worst in people. He brings out the worst in his opponents. He brings out the worst in his supporters. He sullies and destroys the reputations of anyone foolish enough to work with him.

Earlier yesterday it was the turn of mild-mannered Mike Pence. Mind you, this man stood beside Trump through thick and thin, through every crisis, real or imagined. And now, at the eleventh hour, Trump threw his devoted sidekick to his pack of ravenous hounds. He sacrificed him upon the altar of his outrageous ego, just so he could look himself in the mirror and say, “I won that election in a landslide. But the establishment Republicans stabbed me in the back.”

I suspect the wisest among you have known all along that Trump was a bucking bronco. It was a fun ride for a while, I guess. Some good came out of it. But a part of us always knew this wasn’t going to end well. It’s a bit like dating that drop-dead gorgeous chick everyone warns you is batshit crazy. Sure, you have some good times. You make freakish love on a beach in Mexico while the local fishermen gather round to watch. You go dancing on the rooftop of a skyscraper under the light of the full moon. But then she steals your car and your credit cards and runs off one night, leaving you to the Russian mafia, who come pounding at your door, demanding $100,000 in cash or they’re going to stick corkscrews in your scrotum.

Anyway, that's how I feel this morning.

Anybody else tired of winning yet?

In the aftermath of the Obama years, some will say the Republicans needed a jolt, a spark, something to stiffen their spines and shake off the cobwebs. Perhaps all that was true. But what we got was an uncommonly shrewd ignoramus who – along with his frenemies in the media – did their best to totally disfigure American political life. In my 84 years, I have never known my country to be more dysfunctional, more beset by incoherent ideologies, more rife for disunion and bloodshed.

If you think the country is too “lazy” to fight a second Civil War, you might want to think again. There are several groups who seem all too eager to drag us down into the mud and the blood of their delusional revolutions.

From the left, an army of fanatical cultists burned, ransacked, and looted our cities for an entire summer – an entire summer! – seemingly unhindered. They defaced and toppled our statuary with indiscriminate disdain. They suborned millions of well-meaning fools into grotesque displays of false virtue. They insulted millions of others with extravagant claims about the extent and magnitude of racism in America.

This zombified version of the Civil Rights movement, with its shambling hosts and liturgical balderdash, has spread its tentacles into our companies, our city councils, our school boards. Lurking at its black heart is the hideous specter of socialism, the hope of an authoritarian regime that will (among other things) punish the “bad” people and reward the “good” people. Equity, censorship, and endless reparations, forever and ever.

NOT a new religion. Don't be ridiculous.

From the right, another sort of cult has sprung up. It amounts to a loose confederation of kooks, crackpots, and conmen, fueled by grievance and resentment, tainted with cynicism and malevolence, who have at best a shallow understanding of the country they claim to so revere.

Their notion of America is an untidy jumble of misremembered history, discarded bits of Christian theology, conspiracy theories galore, all cobbled together around their great champion, Donald Trump. These are the people for whom civics amounts to simply chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” over and over again. Ask them anything at all about the three branches of government and they couldn’t tell you a goddamn thing.

Our old political labels are badly in need of revision. Half the country, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, are still somewhat committed to the project of constitutional government. The other half of the country, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, operate more like leaderless medieval armies just waiting to rally around a king who will deliver them from their despised enemies.

We’re entering into a religious age, I fear. I suppose it only makes sense I feel like Moses come down from Mount Horeb. Laugh at me if you must. Gnash your teeth at me if you must. Mark my words: one of these days, either Antifa, or BLM, or the MAGA types are going to provoke a crisis from which we cannot extricate ourselves. They'll unplug the drain of the tub, and we'll all be sucked into their whirlpool of insanity. It happened once before. It can happen again. You'd know it too if you did your goddamn reading.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say to you today. I guess I’ll go traipse up the mountain to see if God has any more bad news.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I hear anything.


James O’Flannery


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