As I write this, after the mob attack on the Capitol and before this week’s Presidential Inauguration, like many of you, I don’t know what to believe. From one corner, I hear credible threats that violent groups are planning to attack state capitols, and Washington, D.C., at any time. From another corner, I read that every agency responsible for national security is on high alert and that thousands of National Guard troops have been called into action to keep us safe.
Some people are echoing FDR: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But times have changed. Most Americans stood together with FDR in the World War II fight. Now we apparently have to fear the enemies within.
The media is running with the big story, and that story is the possibility of further anarchy.
Much of the original inauguration plan has been scrapped to offer better security to incoming President Joe Biden and his team. Usually, as many as 200,000 people attend the ceremony; this year only 1,000 invited guests will be there. The outgoing president will not attend. Tens of thousands of National Guard troops will be on site.
The inaugural parade will be “virtual” across America. High fences have been erected around public buildings in the nation’s capital. One commentator said last night that Washington looks like the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area in the middle of Baghdad.
Are you feeling, as I do, that so much has already been lost? In the same way that Islamic terrorists won once we started disrobing at airport check-ins, the domestic terrorists have also gained ground. Their violence has necessitated that we live our lives differently.
Twelve years ago, when Barack and Michelle Obama walked down Pennsylvania Avenue after his inauguration, what a promising moment it was. In a column dedicated to my granddaughter, I wrote: “Sabrina, when you vote for president for the first time in 2024, my guess is it won’t matter much if the candidate is a woman or a man, gay or straight, white, Black, Hispanic or Asian. And it won’t matter because of this election in 2008. As President-elect Barack Obama said in his victory speech, ‘Change has come to America.’”
We have come apart at the seams since then. Change has come, but not the change Obama envisioned.
We have become a country where delusional thinking takes hold among millions of people who act out their rage and frustration on elected officials and cherished landmark buildings, the iconic symbols of our democracy. We have become the place where, through incompetence, ignorance and even intentionality, a ferocious pandemic is raging across the country, as our leaders have failed to take appropriate steps to keep us safe.
Last Friday, the FBI was publicly warning of violent attacks on state institutions in the days leading up to and including the inauguration. But the same agency failed to sound the alarm before Jan. 6, when it reportedly had intelligence indicating an imminent attack on the Capitol. How do we reconcile that?
As the alarms sounded last week, a relative of mine sent out a letter to the entire family. He said he knew he was probably over-reacting, but he wanted to share a family plan for all of us to meet up in a worst-case scenario. In his mind, worst-case would be some kind of catastrophic attack in which phones and the internet would go down, leaving us with no means to communicate with one another. His proposed plan included a “regional” meeting place for the next month. It also detailed meeting places in other states and other countries in years going forward, with specific places for years ending in 0 and years ending in 5. He used the dates of our parents’ birthdays for the particular meet-up days.
I assure you that this individual is solid and sober and believing that although a doomsday scenario is extremely unlikely, it has become more possible considering recent events. When the unthinkable happens right before your eyes, like the assault on the Capitol, you are moved to consider other unthinkable scenarios.
I was momentarily tempted to respond to him with a joke to ease the pressing anxiety. But I’m thinking, instead, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan. I wrote back to him: “Thank you. This reminds us of what makes life worth living: one another.”
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.