Over the holidays, my husband and I took another train trip. We started in Oklahoma City on the Heartland Flyer and went to Fort Worth, spending a night in Arlington. Then, the Texas Eagle took us to Chicago. We next boarded the Capitol Limited, which dropped us in Washington, D.C. We ended up on the Silver Meteor, from which we disembarked in Orlando.
While we were in D.C., I took a photo of my husband with the U.S. Capitol in the background, and joked to a group of friends that he was near the headquarters of the world's largest criminal syndicate. But I knew then, as did my friends, that within a week, it would likely be the scene of more overt criminal activity on Jan. 6. I'd seen the threats and pledges and incitements on social and mainstream media. D.C. officials must have, too, though they evidently didn't take them seriously.
But the day we were there, the setting was idyllic. D.C. is a surprisingly beautiful city, its streets built on the "spoke" pattern like those in Paris. The Greco-Roman buildings and monuments are striking - shining white, as appropriate for that fabled "city on the hill," featuring marble and other elements, plus the pools and well-manicured expanses of lawn.
When we approached the Capitol, it was just before dusk, at the precise moment when that building and others glowed pink in the rays of the setting sun. My photo shows the effect just beginning to materialize on the western side of the dome. It was so peaceful, with the occasional bundled-up jogger or bike rider passing us by. One noticed that Chris, who was fumbling in his pocket for gloves, had dropped his favorite mask, and the bicyclist called after us: "Sir? You dropped something." The Capitol Police were polite and relaxed, perched on motorcycles. Crews had started putting up risers for what I am tentatively thinking will be Joe Biden's inauguration.
I've had my doubts, because I know too many people who are convinced by President Trump's groundless claims that he was "cheated" out of a second term. I knew Oklahoma's entire congressional delegation might not have swallowed Trump's fabrication, but that they intended to safeguard their own positions by catering to his "base" - the worst examples of which showed up later as part of the frenzied goon squad. Some of these politicians, once they saw with their own eyes, finally believed. Time will tell if they pay a price.
I'm glad we were there before the thugs scaled the walls, proving the folly of erecting a wall to "keep out the Mexicans." I'm glad we weren't on hand to watch as they broke windows, threatened politicians from both parties, and tried to replace one of the U.S. flags with a Trump banner. I'm glad I wasn't sitting beside Sen. Jim Inhofe while he watched, on a monitor, as the goons rifled his desk. As a friend said later of Inhofe, he's an "old dog" who knew when to step away from the fire. She added that his junior colleague, James Lankford, got singed and admitted it, but "our young congressman" - she meant Markwayne Mullin - is still smoldering.
The desecration of this beautiful building is something none of us should ever have had to see. And anyone who sanctions this unspeakable behavior isn't fit to remain in my dwindling circle of friends, much less be labeled "American." I don't even want to know them.
I have to shake my head at the number of people insisting the rioters were "antifa," whatever that means in their lexicon. Some are claiming the images were staged or faked by "liberal commies" or the hated media. That, despite the fact that Trump himself embraced them as his own and promised on Twitter a "wild" time. That, despite the fact that he invited them on video to march on the Capitol, and pledged to lead them. That, despite the fact that many of the insurgents proudly acknowledged who they are to reporters - and that their identities are emerging as exactly who they claimed to be, mainly because of their unfiltered stupidity on social media. That, despite the fact that anyone with eyes to see knows the vast majority of insurrectionists were white males who proudly went mask-free about their terroristic business￼.
What's most disheartening for me is that some of my friends who condemned the rioting in Portland and elsewhere over the summer either refuse to condemn the Capitol riots, or they blame them on someone else - anyone but Trump and his rhetoric, and their own. Why don't they just admit they can't stand the fact that Trump lost￼￼, that they are perfectly OK with the violence - and that they don't give a damn about the 81 million-plus Americans who disagreed with them at the polls?
And why are they silent on Trump's threats to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a loyal Republican just following his oath of office? The president's solicitation of criminal behavior was recorded. Do Trump fans believe Raffensperger would invent an unhinged rant, using a voice actor, and expect to get away with it? This phone call played a major role in handing the Democrats the Senate.
Regular folks like me, watching as the nightmare continues to unfold - and the instigators run for cover - aren't the only ones shocked at the refusal of some to acknowledge the truth. So are several of my acquaintances in the media, intelligence and law enforcement communities, who witnessed the insurrection and are willing to call it what it is - just like Inhofe and many other Republicans did, despite their earlier loyalty to Trump. Is every one of these people who saw a riot a liar, too?
Whatever Trump may have accomplished, and however his fans may think he was "anointed by God," they cannot escape the reality that he has repeatedly borne false witness against countless people, and that type of behavior is the polar opposite of what the Lord would sanction. But they refuse to let go, and still choose him over friends and family.
I have nothing left in my arsenal except to pray for these people - some of whom may have once been decent, discerning, patriots - that the scales may fall from their eyes, and they'll seek forgiveness from those they have harmed. Otherwise, I'm not sure the pleas for healing from the president-elect and others will do much good.