Letter from the Vineyard 02 11 2021 Facing reality…

In the weeks since Christmas, I have wrapped myself in the barren beauty of the island, gaining solace from the assortment of wintry days, some sunny, some sullen, drives up and down the island, beginning to explore the place where I find myself living, having arrived for the summer in the spring of 2019, unsuspecting I’d now be facing the spring of 2021, still here.

The universe gifts us in surprising ways and the island has always been a surprising gift. The first time here, 2007, picking me up from the ferry, my friend Jeffrey said, welcome to “the land of off.”  And it was for me for all the years I visited them, before I came in 2016 to help with the bookstore.  Since then, it has been “the land of on.”

Photo courtesy of Paul Doherty

In 2018, I was muddled about the future, feeling rather like a muggle in a world of wizards.  Finally, in an effort to shrug off muggle feelings, I sold my home, sent my worldly possessions to fill the home of friends who had just purchased a large townhouse in Baltimore, set off for the Vineyard for the summer of 2018, the beginnings of what I had determined would be a vagabond old age.

It was, for a time.  

It has been a gift to be here, soothing in these stressful times, to focus on the bookstore, to have some purpose with the previous salve of travel denied me by a virus none suspected would upend the world; about one year ago the first case was diagnosed in the U.S.

What an extraordinary year this has been, a journey of wild proportions, on all fronts.

And in the last weeks, I have been clinging to the island’s beauty, immutable in the twists of time, as I have witnessed the most remarkable period in American history in my life. 

What a journey we have faced in the last weeks since Christmas.  While Trump continued to espouse his fallacies that the election was stolen from him, it seemed we were on the way to a smooth transition despite his unbased claims.

Then we found he was arm twisting Georgia’s Secretary of State to find him the votes he needed.  What?!  Senators and Congressmen intended to contest the Electoral College.  What?!

Then January 6th.  

Something feels altered.  

A mob descended on Congress, determined to interfere with the processes of American democracy, some intending to do physical harm to members of Congress, determined to prevent Joseph R. Biden become what he was, the legally elected next president of the United States.  Five people died, one stomped to death by the mob of which they were part.

Nothing like this has happened in my life. 

The President of the United States incited a mob to prevent him from being removed.

On January 20th, as Biden was progressing to inauguration, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, QAnon believers, were waiting for Trump to declare martial law, cross the Rubicon, send in the troops to arrest Democrats or kill them, declare himself President for the next four years, perhaps for life.

It didn’t happen.  Proud Boys are denouncing Trump as weak. QAnon followers are in dismay, denial.

We need to be careful.  What if one day someone smarter, more determined than Trump, declares their defeat a farce, decides to cross the Rubicon, see what happens.

It is what Julius Caesar did.  Crossed the Rubicon. The Roman Republic fell.

Is it a wonder I revel in island winter beauty?

Biden has been inaugurated, a leveling hand on the throttles of government, Trump silenced by Twitter, rages, I’m sure, in Mar-A-Lago exile.  

The Republican party is torn, populists against the governing side, populists who give a standing ovation to the loathsome Marjorie Taylor Greene who has embraced QAnon with heart and soul, espouses violence against Democrats, believes California wildfires were started by a space-based laser funded by Jewish bankers.

What is frightening is she seems to be becoming the face of the Republican Party.  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced in the summer QAnon had no place in his party; since January 6th he has claimed he doesn’t know what it is.  Mendacity.

Representative Cheney, who survived a movement to tumble her from a leadership position, has called for the Republican party to be the “party of truth.”

Good for her.  Though I fear the Republican party has a long way to go to become the party of truth when leaders like McCarthy forget the words they have spoken in an effort to pander to the political moment.  Trumpism was wounded by January 6th but it is not dead.

Historical similarities with tumbles toward Fascism abound. It is not enough to believe it couldn’t happen here.  Wishful thinking is not healthy in these strange, parlous times.

Trump’s second impeachment trial is in progress.  In all likelihood, it will fail as Republicans scurry “to move beyond” January 6th, afraid, too, in most cases to stand up to Trump who has cast his thrall across the Republican party, expanding its base to include some of the most deplorable [conscious word choice] individuals in our country, harboring the rot of white supremacism.

I have not been so politically angry since Nixon.

Yet, I am hopeful. In this strange time, hope endures. Biden plays a measured hand. The rot has been exposed; we’ll see who wins.  Vaccines have arrived; we will beat the variants, somehow.

We have seen the dark underbelly and must fight it lest we find ourselves in its thrall.  And I believe we will. 

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