Monday, January 11, 2021

Staring Down the Ugly Throat of Anarchy

By Madeleine Kando

Boston, 1/6/2021
Today, the State of Georgia votes for their 2 US Senators in a run-off election. If they vote Democratic, they win the US Senate. I am glued to my computer screen, checking every 10 minutes, to see where the numbers are. They are! One of them is in the bag. The other candidate’s numbers are going up too. Up enough to prevent a recount? Is it finally time to say goodbye and good luck to Mitch McConnell?

Today is also the day when Congress officially counts the Electoral Votes certified by each state. But some lawmakers have decided to object to the results, hinged on baseless allegations of election fraud. Those debates would start at 12:30 pm.

The line behind candidate Osoff turns a solid blue. Yes! We won the Senate! I step away from my desk to make coffee. When I return, the screen is filled with images of smoke and screams. I am looking at the coverage of the MAGA insurrection in DC. The elation is gone, from high to low, like a bowling ball dropped on my foot. 
Now things are getting worse. The announcer’s voice rises to a pitch: ‘They are storming the capitol building!’ A close up of people breaking windows, climbing walls, waiving giant flags on the scaffolding that have been raised in preparation of inauguration day. Then, inside the building, an endless line of rioters, walking across the ‘Great Rotunda’, like a group of tourists. Some are taking pictures of the ceiling. One is taking a selfie with a guard. No one is even trying to stop them.

I cannot make sense of this surreal moment: For me, life has been put on hold for almost a whole year now. I only venture out to go food shopping once or twice a week. On my daily walk in the woods, I step into the underbrush every time I cross path with another human. I put on my mask, my glasses fog up and I cannot see where I am going. But that’s better than risking infection.

In which alternate world do these hundreds of unmasked, yelling, chanting MAGA hat wearing rioters live? Is there no virus in their world? Are there no free and fair elections? Are there no laws that prevent them from entering and vandalizing government buildings? This live footage must be from another country and the announcer will soon apologize for his error. ‘Sorry, folks, this footage was taken in Somalia (or another failed state). We apologize for making you think that it was happening in the Capital of the United States’.

This is my first close encounter with anarchy and it scares the bejesus out of me, even in this 2D rendition. Is it because I am a war baby, born during the German occupation of my native Hungary? Does my subconscious remember having to spend days in a bomb shelter while the German and Russian forces were killing each other in the streets above?

The images keep coming, flooding my brain. Where is the police? Where is the National Guard? I have never been more keen to see burly guys in combat outfit step out of their armed vehicles and shove these mentally ill villains into a riot van. Lock them up until they regain their senses.

Still no cavalry. The DC police in black uniforms finally creates a line at the top of the stairs to the entrance. They descend, step by step, pushing the rioters down. No violence, no altercations. Slow and methodical. I admire their tactic. 

My fear has turned into anger. I want justice. I want someone to pay for having destroyed my dream. I have not always been happy with my decision to move to America. My life here has been good, on the whole, but it has always been important for me to feel allegiance to America. Not because it is better than other countries, but because I chose to emigrate.

Were the past 45 years of my life a mistake? What about all the other immigrants who come here, ready to identify with this (still) generous, powerful, free nation? Is allegiance to a nation, feeling that you belong, all bullshit? Does it cause more harm than good?

Now that I am old, I have to justify the choice I made. I have always been a proud immigrant. At this moment I lost that pride, I am ashamed, scared and disoriented. The few friends I have do not share my existential crisis. Some of them are 3rd or 2nd generation, but I am the one that decided to take the leap. My children had no choice but to be American. I did.

The news calls this terrible event ‘embarrassing’. Really? Burping or farting in public is embarrassing. But storming and vandalizing the seat of government is far beyond embarrassing. It is a historical event that my great grandchildren will read about and I don’t hear them say: ‘Oh, that was so embarrassing’. I hope they will look at it as one of the lowest points in their country’s history, hopefully never to be repeated again.

I always knew that America’s underbelly, when exposed is not a pretty sight. But it’s a big country. There is room for me here, I thought. Now the underbelly has been shoved in my face and I am left gasping. Living my insulated New England life, I convinced myself that this fairly civilized part of the country represented the entire country. It does not.

But we survived Trump and I remind myself that America has overcome crises before. More than half of Americans are still sane and have shown this at the polls. In 9 days, the reconstruction begins and hopefully we’ll be a normal country again. The same normal health insurance that all other countries enjoy, a profound economic equalization, criminal justice reform, you name it. Already, the good guys have taken back both houses and the White House.

So maybe there IS still room for me in America and giving up on it is premature. leave comment here