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We all know what it was like to live through the last four years. The constant lies. The hate-filled attacks against fellow Americans. The rejection of US allies. The dehumanization of refugees, in word and deed. The campaign violations. The coveting of Putin and Russia. The betrayal in Helsinki. The deadly recklessness toward the coronavirus. The efforts to convince state election officials to commit fraud. The incitement to insurrection. I could go on…
I think we all recall what it was like to wake each day and wonder what fresh hell might he have wrought. It required steeling ourselves against the degradations and desecrations. I engaged in near-daily thought experiments: If we were living in a sane world, what would that look like? If we had a president who was committed to improving lives and making America better, what would that look like? This was part of how I held onto my ability to distinguish right from wrong, true from false.
It’s been barely three months since Joe Biden’s arrival and Donald Trump’s eviction—98 days to be exact—so it’s no wonder that I might still be a little jumpy. This was a daily assault, the kind of experience that can be traumatic and not quickly overcome.
But it’s not the lingering residue that surprises me; it’s that in barely three months, I have begun to treat the Biden presidency as almost normal. And, while I told myself that we must not forget the assault on our democracy and the push toward autocracy, I’ve actually found myself taking for granted the new administration’s respect for the rule of law and the Constitution.
Of course, that’s how it should be. These are the people we should expect to model respect for our system and values. Before Trump, people treated democracy and freedom as givens in America. Many didn’t realize then how fragile the fabric is, how easily it could be torn to pieces, how quickly it could be tossed away by elected officials willing to sacrifice everything to hold onto power.
But here we are. Battered, but a little wiser, I hope.
Even if calm competence and compassion have begun to seem like the new normal, the alarms can be heard if we’re paying attention. And the reasons for alarm remain loud and riddled with danger. Not just the continuing assertion by the majority of Republicans that the Big Lie of election fraud is true. And not only legislative efforts across the country to deny access to voting and clamp down on the fundamental right of protest.
I am impatient by nature, so I acknowledge that some days I struggle to fully respect the methodical need to build the legal case and turn over every rock before prosecuting each of the crimes. But my hunger for justice in the case of January 6 is only growing stronger.
And even though I remain optimistic about Attorney General Merrick Garland’s commitment to holding the guilty accountable, the failure to adequately inform the public on measures being taken can’t help but give comfort to the enemy within.
When the hammer falls—and I still believe it will—that sound of justice will be sweet. But the longer we wait, the more it risks further damaging the public’s hope that no one is above the law. The longer we wait, the more that new normal of calm competence and compassion may begin to seem like a façade, convincing the violent extremists and their friends in Congress that they can get away with murder.
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