In two days, on Jan. 6, we will mourn the anniversary of an assault on our nation’s capital by a well-organized group of domestic terrorists incited by a pernicious president who for hours watched this heinous scene from the Oval Office, ignoring pleas to calm the forces of evil that he had ignited.
Trump considered the defeat of his re-election effort on Nov. 3, 2020, illegitimate and rigged. He could not acknowledge his ineptitude as president. He encouraged his ardent supporters to attack our citadel of democracy. He thought it possible to overturn the election by threatening members of Congress.
He cared not at all about the court-backed democratic process.
Trump aside, our future as a vibrant democracy is in danger. My military background is coloring my opinion.
Particularly bothersome on Jan. 6 was the presence of military veterans and active, Guard and Reserve soldiers who considered extremism more important than the protection of our republic from renegades such as themselves. The beginning of 2021 began with despair and depression.
Three retired US generals predict that this extremism, if unchecked, would lead to a civil war should Trump or one of his disciples run again for president and lose. This possibility is frightening to behold.
According to the three retired general officers, more than one in ten of the 727 people charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol had a service record. This is an alarming fact. Granted that our military forces comprise men and women of all political and philosophical persuasions, they all swear, however, to uphold the U.S. Constitution and cherish our democracy—regardless of who is elected president.
“The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines—from the top of the chain to squad leader—is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the ‘rightful’ commander in chief cannot be dismissed,” the three generals wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Dec. 17, 2021.
While some may consider this viewpoint apoplectic, I do not, sadly. It would be foolhardy to overlook the Trumpian acolytes who feel threatened by minority groups ascending the ladder of success and power. The Democratic Party, with its wide tent of disparate constituents, is a target of discontent and anger.
Anyone watching the Jan. 6 assault on TV saw very few Black participants. Whiteness was the common denominator. In full, unvarnished view were the fissures in our fragile country. Trust in our government is at its nadir.
Like the three general officers, I too am troubled by a potential viral strain of extremism permeating our military ranks. Our civilian and military leadership must pay attention to any ripples of extremist thought and actions without trampling on the 1st Amendment guaranteeing free speech.
As I watched the domestic terrorists climb walls and overcome obstacles, I harbored a sickening feeling that the renegades seemed well-trained, wll-motivated and well-disciplined. They used their skillset to commit criminal behavior.
I mourn Jan. 6, 2021, as a day when a building that symbolizes our messy democratic process became a target for violent frustration. I mourn the depth to which men and women, believing themselves to be patriots, were anything but. I mourn the alienation felt by both ends of the political spectrum.
I hope that 2022 brings reconciliation among our socioeconomic tribes. I hope we can arrive at a point where we understand and value each other. I prefer optimism over pessimism. I understand that stark reality mitigates optimism.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.