THE unthinkable seizure of the US Capitol building on Jan 6, 2021, has an analogy in Leonard Wibberley’s book The Mouse That Roared (1955). The Irish-American author Wibberley wrote a series of satires on US and Cold War politics, but none of them fits as neatly with the events of that day, the day that witnessed American democracy genuflect to home-grown anarchy.
Wibberley’s parody, like all literary deflations, is premised on an implausible possibility. A small band of invaders, dressed in chain-mail and armed with mediaeval weapons from the tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick, crosses the Atlantic in a galleon. The invaders land in modern New York on the very day the city is undergoing a curfew drill. Wandering in an empty city, the soldiers chance upon a secret laboratory. There, they unwittingly capture the dreaded Quadium Bomb, a WMD more powerful than the combined nuclear strength of the United States and the then USSR. The United States surrenders immediately to a now superior power.
Who would have believed such a story? And yet, 66 years later, reality has imitated fiction. A rabble of noisy Trumpeteers, goaded by the president of the United States, his son and his personal attorney, attacked an under-defended Capitol Hill in search (amongst others) of the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Many in that raucous mob were dressed as if they had travelled to Washington to attend a fancy dress party and somehow mistaken the address. Aaron Mostofsky, the son of a county supreme court judge, came swathed in a cape made up of animal pelts. Another — Jacob ‘Jake’ Chansley —painted his face a patriotic red, white and blue and sported a fur hat with two buffalo horns. He carried a six-foot long spear, presumably with which to skewer members of Congress.
Trump would rather ‘reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n’.
Over the past 10 days, out of that rabid band estimated on the day to number more than 20,000, only 50 or so more arrests have been made by a slow-moving FBI. Those taken into custody represent an array of ‘domestic terrorists’. They include Jenna Ryan, a real estate agent, who chartered a private plane to travel to Washington, D.C., and Dominic Pezzola (ironically, a registered Democrat) who, it is alleged, “intended to kill Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence”.
Others apprehended are Christine Priola, a school occupational therapist; off-duty police officers Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson; Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic swimming medallist; Robert Packer who wore a fascist ‘Camp Auschwitz’ T-shirt; Andrew Williams, a firefighter and paramedic; Derrick Evans, elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates last autumn; Adam C. Johnson, who strutted about with Nancy Pelosi’s lectern under his arm.
Richard ‘Bigo’ Barnettwas photographed posing at a staffer’s desk inside the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He boasted later that he had been ‘escorted out’ by obliging staff of the Capitol building, but not arrested by the Capitol Police.
These agitators and 74 million like-minded Republicans who voted for Trump are the incendiary legacy he is leaving for his successor, now President Joe Biden. Trump’s dream team of supporters will be for the next four years Biden’s nightmare.
On Feb 18, 2008, election day in Pakistan, Joe Biden (then a senator) visited Lahore to monitor our general election. I was an interim provincial minister at the time. He asked my opinion about the likely outcome. I analysed them into three Cs: Conduct, Consequences, and Coalition. The contesting parties had accepted that the election had been conducted fairly. They needed to reconcile themselves to its consequences. And should no clear majority emerge, the parties might have to admit the possibility of a coalition. In the final count, the PML-N emerged as the victor with 53 seats against the PPP’s 45 seats.
Ironically, in his own election in 2020, President Joe Biden came unstuck on the first rung. His opponent refused to accept the conduct of the election. Biden now has to manage its consequences. And a coalition? Unworkable, and unthinkable. Trump is no Hillary Clinton. She may have joined her former opponent Barack Obama as his secretary of state. Trump is by nature a spoiler. An unrepentant Lucifer, he would rather “reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n”.
Trump’s hell is his balmy Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. There, he can play golf until 2024, or his impeachment/ disqualification, whichever occurs earlier. It would be interesting to see if former vice president Mike Pence (whom Trump’s mob wanted to lynch) continues to be his caddy.
And what of the ‘domestic terrorists’ who stormed the Capitol building? Some jurists believe they deserve the same punishment the US government has meted out to ‘tinted terrorists’ — incarceration, without an open trial, in Guantanamo Bay.
The writer is an author.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021