At the Capitol

January 2021

I anticipated writing a very different column this week. It was to be about something timely and momentous and to me, very exciting: I just got my first Covid vaccine. Then, on Wednesday, during painting class, a breaking news notification popped up on my iPhone. I put down my paintbrush and watched in horror as the events in the Capitol unfolded. Seeing the Chambers of Congress in the news footage took me back to the summer of 1963 when I served as an intern for the esteemed Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. It was the most exhilarating and inspiring time of my life up to that point. I witnessed the Civil Rights Act debate on the Senate floor. I was introduced to and had a bourbon with the legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow in Senator Kefauver’s office. I met Senators Barry Goldwater and Ted Kennedy, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy as well as other greats of that era. My biggest thrill was meeting President Kennedy in the Rose Garden after he addressed us, the interns of ‘63. Bill Clinton visited the White House that summer as a high school senior—there is a famous photo of him shaking hands with the President. I may have crossed paths with him too, in one of those august halls of government.

That is the background against which I viewed the shocking events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021, events that will live on in my mind and memory for the rest of my years. How does one react to such destruction in the heart of our democracy, the hallowed site of so much of our collective history, of our Republic? Perhaps Doris Kearns Goodwin said it best when she suggested it would take a hundred years for historians to fully assess this tragedy. I don’t need a hundred years to come to my own conclusions about it. I have thought long and hard since that day and I have decided that I will no longer associate with any of my friends who still support Trump and his lies. I tried to discuss it rationally and sensibly with these few friends, some of which I have known since college in the 1950s. They are not ignorant, uneducated people. They have had careers in business, law and medicine. Yet they still believe the election was stolen and that the mob that invaded Congress are patriots. I am done chilling over their stupidity. They are of the same ilk as Cruz and Hawley and all the other House members who voted to deny the validity of the election. No longer will I tolerate them–no more sympathy or conversation. I am blocking their email accounts and the repugnant diatribes they forward to me from the right-wing groups in bed with the white supremacists and anti-Semites.

My father left Ukraine as a teenager to avoid conscription into the army. He fled to Argentina because he could not enter the United States. His family that stayed perished in the Holocaust. Seeing the invaders of Congress wearing t-shirts with “Camp Auschwitz” and other anti-Semitic slogans emblazoned on them settled it for me. I believe I learned the lesson. Those who lingered in Germany, Hungary, France, Italy, Poland and Ukraine as Hitler spread his anti-Semitic rhetoric became victims. Hitler’s followers believed the lies. Trump’s followers believe his lies and have acted violently at his bidding. This is not going away after Inauguration Day. Congress must take a stand. We must all take a stand.

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