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On the Day of Reckoning

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By William Alexander Yankes

On January 6th, 2020, President Donald Trump riled a mob to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and disrupt Congress as it prepared to certify the Electoral College votes that would make his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden final and absolute. The certification, to the former host of The Apprentice, might easily have registered as the deafening sound of his own reality TV catchphrase amplified a thousandfold and boomeranging back toward him with a vengeance, "You're fired!"

He incited a riot. He did so deliberately, disregarding and defiling our democratic process, much as a dictator would have done, insisting he had won re-election by a landslide. Like a good bait-and-switch snake-oil huckster, he hawked the stolen election as the country that had been taken from them, their country. As true patriots, he suggested, they would have to be strong to get it back. In the aftermath of their violent and unprecedented insurrection, we learned that five people died as a result of the siege.

Sadly, one was shot inside the Capitol building, and another—a federal security officer and U.S. military veteran who tried vainly to stop the attack—was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher and died later of a massive stroke. Their needless deaths occurred because Trump chose to stoke lawlessness in a shameful, self-serving ploy to subvert the will of the voters. Tellingly, he chose not to accompany his surrogates on their walk to the Capitol. Instead he cowered off to the safety and comfort of the White House. What is it about the American flag and “the values for which it stands” that would make a criminal occupier of the Oval Office believe getting a mob of vicious rioters to help him bully his way back into a second presidential term was okay?

Since taking office he has willfully undermined democracy, tainting the reputation of the United States around the world at every turn. Why do the US Supreme Court and the U.S. Attorney General, sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, continue allowing a man with such obvious sociopath inclinations, to fan the flames of armed violence and domestic terrorism with fraudulent claims and coded hate speech?

The Articles of Impeachment, as currently worded, in my estimation, are in and of themselves not strong enough a mechanism to summarily dismiss elected officials who have so egregiously endangered our democracy. Trump, just this week was impeached for the second time, becoming the first sitting President to have so transgressed the public trust. Yet, unbelievably, he remains a free man.

At this insane juncture in history, I’m driven to recall a few passages from my doctoral studies: political theorist and author Hannah Arendt, reporting on Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial for Nazi war crimes as a New Yorker magazine correspondent, observed how his defense rested entirely on how he had merely been “following orders.” Arendt’s book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, examines the legitimacy of his claim that carrying out duties as a “cog” in a vast bureaucratic machine made him innocent of the atrocities he was being tried for. By contrast, I see nothing banal in Trump’s willingness to imperil the country and hundreds of innocent people in pursuit of a second term, especially when he has yet to be held accountable for the litany of offenses committed before the January 6th nightmare he unleashed.

My research, I hasten to add, also took me to Argentina’s U.S.-condoned Dirty War during Latin America’s era of coup d’états against democratic regimes. They left thousands of victims, followed by decades of suffering from which the continent is still reeling. In Argentina alone, the convicted murderer and military dictator Jorge Luís Videla eventually died in prison for the murders of his opponents and the kidnapping of children of women held in detention centers for their opposition to the military regime.

Donald Trump is the American Videla. He is also the American Adolf Eichmann. Like Eichmann, Trump’s capacity for evil could prove boundless, were it to go unchecked, because he continues to believe that human lives can be expended to satisfy his own ego, help line his pockets, and emerge unscathed. Witness his refusal to reach out to the families of those who died in the Capitol melee he provoked with his remarks at the rally preceding the nightmarish vandalism, mayhem and violence.

How much more damage ought we tolerate? It would be historically cathartic if the United States Senate were to vote unanimously in support of the House of Representatives and indict him for encouraging an insurrection—essentially a failed coup likely to fuel further anger and resentment festering among its adherents—and remove this dangerous con man from office immediately. It would be better still if such censure led to formal charges based on fraud, deceit and criminal disregard for the Constitution.

The urgent call for members of the U.S. Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and the recent vote by a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump for the second time must not be ignored or silenced. An impeachment vote should instead be expedited swiftly and decisively within the U.S. Senate before the ceremonial transfer of power in less than a week.

If we want to show the world that in the United States the rule of law still applies equally to everyone, be they a sitting president or not, we must not hesitate or leave responsibility for enforcement of those laws to the next administration. Let us remember that “We the people,” as writ in the preamble of highest and most sacred legislation in the land, still rings true.

We will never make American great again until we make it plain for all to see that the United States means it when we strip from office an individual who has so callously and selfishly divided our nation and has literally become an obstacle to world peace. 

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A long-time Senior Editor at Brooklyn & Boyle, William A. Yankes is a PhD in Latin American dictatorship literature. He resides in Los Angeles. Reach him at wa.yankes@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Brooklyn & Boyle is a print and online magazine dedicated to art, culture and community in Boyle Heights and the Greater East Side of Los Angeles, as defined by the residents of neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, City Terrace, East LA, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Cypress Park, Arroyo Seco, Highland Park whose lifetime roots in those communities give their stakeholder status that cannot be erased or replaced by gentrification and economic displacement. These are places which in culture and creativity every bit as creative and cultured as one another in which hybrid language and culture have always mattered and have always been every bit as developed and sophisticated as that produced and projected elsewhere in the L.A. Metropolitan Area. Our editorial platform and policies, above all, are based on support support for community integrity and an acknowledgement of--as well as a respect for--the history and heritage of those whose families, have long called these East Side neighborhoods home.

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