I didn’t see the Twin Towers go down on 9/11. Let me take that back—because I was in class, I didn’t see the collapse, not until hours later. When I did, the world was still stunned into silence.
No single building was attacked yesterday. The Washington and Lincoln Monuments, as well as the Vietnam War Memorial and all the commemorative places in the nation’s Capital, are in one piece.
But like Tim yesterday, I’m departing from plan, because what happened yesterday afternoon is just as significant as the catastrophe of 9/11: a former President was charged in a DC court not all that far from the Capital. A decade ago what I’ve just said would have been unthinkable.
Tuesday’s indictment wasn’t his first but his third, with another expected within the month. Some news outlets led this way on Tuesday: “Trump Indicted Again. . .” That last word, again, is sufficient to make some readers roll their eyes—“what else is new?” Ever since he and Melania came down that elevator, Donald J. Trump has outweighed all other politicians and all other newsmakers. No one stays above the fold like he does, but then nothing about DJT is weak or puny; even what he mistakenly says on a hot mic gets rave reviews from those who adore him.
But this morning, I just can’t help thinking something has to be said: a former President of the United States has been charged with “using dishonesty, fraud and deceit to obstruct the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.” Just doesn’t happen every other Tuesday.
We standing where none of us has ever stood, witnessing a historic moment that not only rivals but exceeds 9/11 in gravity, and danger to democracy.
I turned to Fox News on Wednesday, where commentators claimed the Department of Justice was charging the former President with exercising his First Amendment rights, charges that would never hold up in court because the affair was pure politics, Trump being the front-runner in the 2024 Republican Presidential sweepstakes. The only reason Biden is going after him, Fox’s people were saying, is his commanding lead in the polls. They were convinced the DOJ fabricated charges to cover the more heinous crimes of Joe Biden, who, along with his drug addled, criminal son Hunter, took home millions in bribes and payoffs.
According to Fox, the compelling story was not whatever Donald J. Trump might or might not have done, but what a corrupt government in Washington had already accomplished to keep their man from free speech—to mouth the lie he blanketed over the country. He’d won in a landslide in 2020, he said and still is saying.
The political Royal Gorge in this country has well-established and fortified walls. You either buy the goods Jack Smith is bringing to the bench, or you buy the truth Fox is selling. Either way, it’s frightfully clear the U. S. of A. is cut in halves, broken up, and seething. Where both sides agree is that what happened yesterday was as momentous as anything in this nation’s history—a one-time President of these United States has been officially charged with a crime, more than one. Soon enough, he will face a jury.
Never before. Never.
In January of 2017, Candidate Trump uttered one unforgettable line here in northwest Iowa, at Dordt University, the college from which I graduated and where I taught for almost 40 years. Few followers or detractors have forgotten. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody,” he told a standing room only crowd in the BJ Haan chapel, “and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
But then he said something largely forgotten: “It’s incredible,” he said, as if he were himself shocked by the loyalty his candidacy had somehow mystically, even spiritually, created. He seemed stupefied.
Thousands have tried to understand the Trump phenomenon’s lock on his millions, how he created a loyalty he seemed not to understand himself back then. How he holds his immense power remains a mystery.
He’s pounded the meaning from words like patriot and evangelical and even Christian by redefining them for his use only. He’s made us all—even his supporters—incapable of being shocked at anything he says or does. I’m writing these words right now because I can’t help but think it’s incumbent on all of us to repeat over and over and over that what he’s done and what he’s doing is in no sense at all “normal.” He’s carried half a nation into his fantasies and carnage.
Six years ago, when he was still running for the nomination of the Republican Party, he made his bold and murderous assessment, but nothing’s changed. Today, only one contender is registering sufficient popular appeal to challenge him for the 2024 nomination, and that man, Florida’s Gov DeSantis, wears lead boots he put on his own feet. He has no problem determining his competition, but he’s scared of saying anything bad about him, because even today DJT could stand in the BJ Haan chapel, shoot someone, and not lose a vote.
Yesterday was for the history books. Many, I fear, will simply scratch it up to “politics.” No attack from off our shores could be as injurious to us than a slapdash shrug of the shoulders. He’s hardened us to treachery and falsehood. We’ve become accustomed his sledge hammer coming down on our moral compass.
This morning, I just need to say that yesterday was huge. We’ve never been here before.