The stench of shame is unbearable

In emergency medicine there is a procedure called rapid-sequence intubation (RSI) during which a breathing tube is very quickly placed into the trachea after the patient is administered powerful paralytic medications. It is performed in situations that are dire and there is no time to properly prep a patient whose airway and breathing are critically impaired. Without this intervention, the patient will die. I am intimately familiar with RSI from years of working in a busy level-one trauma center and a cardiology unit, where RSI was a frequent occurrence. I never thought I’d witness the procedure being performed on my own country.

Our democracy was crashing and dying on January 6. Instead of a bullet to the head, a traumatic chest injury or cardiac arrest, the source of the life-threatening crisis were our own citizens storming the Capitol and threatening the safety of both the House and Senate in an attempt to halt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden as the winner in our November presidential election, egged on by our own sitting president and some GOP party leaders. Police, the National Guard, and the FBI needed to step in and quite literally and figuratively preserve the life of our democracy by securing the Capitol building and keeping the very heart of our nation beating.

I worked a 14-hour day on January 6. While I heard the play-by-play of what was unfolding in our nation’s capital on my car’s satellite radio in between visits with patients, I was unable to watch the live images of the situation. At the end of my long day with the terminally ill I couldn’t bring myself to also witness the life threatening illness facing the country. I went to bed numb, exhausted and angry. Forty-eight hours later, after I’ve had time to watch gut-wrenching video of the insurrection and perform my own root-cause analysis, the anger has only multiplied. I’ve spent the last four years in a vacillating state of anger from the daily, unrelenting degradation of our country at the hands of an overgrown juvenile delinquent, but it turns out that was nothing compared to the level of infuriation I’ve experienced in the last two days.

Anger over a situation is an unhealthy thing to carry around. You either have to forgive, forget and move on, use other healthy methods such as exercise and meditation to diffuse it, or keep it bottled up and let it drag your physical and mental health into the gutter. I’ve done a pretty good job the past four years of modulating the outrage and indignation that Donald Trump and his cabal of miscreant enablers have lobbed at us. I’ve talked myself down from the ledge more times than I can count. As they assaulted the basic tenets upon which our country was founded, not chipped away but rather taken sledgehammers to its foundation. As they enriched themselves and their friends at the expense of Americans. As they spread lies and disinformation. As they lent legitimacy to racist, nationalistic and seditious organizations and people. And most repugnant of all stood by and deliberately did precious little to protect the country from the advance of a deadly pandemic. And that’s just scratching a small corner of the vast surface of desecration he and his smug lap dogs have brought upon our republic.

In the intervening week we’ve been hearing platitudes about coming together and healing from the very public servants who assisted with what transpired. Without apology I am highly disinclined to forgive and move on at this point. The lid boiled off my anger pot last week and it’s still spewing its detritus on the stove. But I feel like I need to make at least a small attempt to let some of the steam off. Since I don’t have the ears of the direct orchestrators of what can only be defined as a coup upon our government, where do I begin to direct the blame and hold accountable others who enabled this disaster?  The answer is they reside at the bottom of the political food chain, or to borrow an analogy from the treasonous 45th president, at the bottom of the fetid swamp. The people who elected Trump to begin with. So let me start there.

Our 33rd president, Harry Truman was well known for the famous phrase “The buck stops here.”  Of course that would require that the person at the top, in this case the president, would be the one taking responsibility for something gone awry in the federal machinery that keeps our government functional. Donald Trump has never taken responsibility for anything other than his own deliriously confabulated accomplishments. Any problem, any deficiency, any mistake, any  misdeeds? That’s always – and always has been – someone else’s fault in the twisted, gaseous galaxy he inhabits. The mess of a national crisis we find ourselves in at this moment? The buck stops for this debacle stops with every Republican who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, stops twice with every Republican voter who saw what this man really was and voted Republican in the 2018, and it stops a third time for every Republican who voted for the GOP in the 2020 election. It doesn’t matter if you split your ticket and didn’t vote for Trump in 2020 but still voted for other Republicans down ticket. YOU voted for people to represent you who have enabled him and have failed for four long years to hold him accountable for any of the multitude of lies and misdeeds he has engaged in.  

I write this with every ounce of intent in my body, whether you are a stranger, an acquaintance or family member who identifies as Republican and voted for Trump: I hope you are ashamed and embarrassed of yourselves. I have serious reservations that you will be, though. Your choice to help put that man into the White House is due to only a handful of plausible explanations: 1) similar to Donald Trump you have serious, pathological moral and character flaws and you are totally bought in to his agenda; 2) you have the inability to distinguish right from wrong; or 3) you’re so abjectly stupid that you’re unable to tell when you’re being gaslighted by an entire party nearly full of self-serving idealogues and the buffoon who pulls their strings. None of those are admirable options. But they seem the only viable ones.

I will also logically conclude you lack the ability to self-shame. But rest assured, if you are incapable of being ashamed and embarrassed of yourselves, know that I am ashamed and embarrassed of you. I have lost all respect for you, and I do not trust you or your motivations. I may have to interact with you, and I will be civil to you in polite company, but you need to know my civility toward you is purely perfunctory. In short, I don’t like you, I don’t trust your character, and I wish to associate with you as little as possible. If that burns personal bridges, it burns bridges. And yes, it’s that serious of a matter.

Today, one week later, I am agog at the number of Republican House members who, while I write this, are standing up and stating for the country and whole world to see that Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to be impeached (a second time!) and what a horrible political ploy it is to try to have this malignant menace excised from the White House immediately. The hue and cry of the Republicans is not for the perpetrator of an insurrection and attempted coup. It’s directed at all those who are good American barometers of decency and democracy, whether they be the Democrats, the Republicans who long ago repudiated and disassociated themselves from Trump, or just everyday people who can determine right from wrong and KNOW what happened was not just wrong but grave and unforgivable.

When I learned about our government, it’s structure, its codified process for functioning and the ways political maneuvering fit into that system, I took away one key principle. It may sound simplistic and hokey, but I believed then – and I believe now, even more so – that your vote really does matter and you have a responsibility as a citizen of this country to take it seriously and to know exactly what, and who, you’re voting for. I am thankful I had a father who made sure I understood that concept, and I’m thankful for my high school government teacher for reinforcing it in terms that I understood.

If you voted for Trump, you had the same set of information as everyone else about that man. You knew about his track record of bankruptcies and finding ways to get out of paying for services that were already rendered to him and his businesses. You knew of the racism he doled out as a landlord. You saw him with his gaudy showmanship on a reality TV-show. When he mocked a disabled reporter on the campaign trail, you saw that too. You saw him at his campaign rallies encouraging his followers to rough up hecklers. You heard him assign unflattering nicknames like a pompous junior high bully to his political opponents on the campaign trail – “Little Marco”, “Pochahontas”, “Senator Joe Munchkin”, and “Lyin’ Ted.” And you heard him talk about how easy it was to “grab them by the pussy.” The list could go on. And on. And on. And yet, Republican-identified people somehow managed to look past it, or worse yet agree with it, and frittered away their vote on a megalomaniacal mad man.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a life-long Democrat and it would take some pretty serious sets of circumstances to get me to vote otherwise. Historically I’ve also not assumed the worst about Republicans. We live in a two-party system, its just a fact of life. But for the last six years I’ve seen the Republican part morph into a sad caricature of its previous self. I can guarantee you, without a doubt or ounce of hesitation, that if the Democratic party ever put forth such a damaged, dangerous and divisive candidate as the Republicans had in 2016 in Donald Trump I would refuse to vote for them. I’d do that because my understanding of our democracy and the responsibility to keep it from going off the rails rests with me and my vote. Bill Clinton lied to the House and Congress under oath and I believe he deserved to be impeached for that. If a president can be impeached about lying about extramarital sex, the case for Trump’s first and second impeachments are pretty cut and dried.

Throughout his presidency you continued to support him and continued to elect the sort of sycophantic idealogues who only encouraged his antics. And now, at this very moment they are standing before the world and excusing the litany of lies and continuing to spread the false notion that the most secure election in the history of our country was illegitimate and that vis-à-vis no wonder their supporters got uppity about it. They want us to “move past” the fact that an armed mob that tried to track down legislators and the vice president and kill them, as has been verified by official reports of the events.

Donald Trump could have never ascended to the presidency, he could have never engaged in the pathetic trail of misdeeds, and he could have never allowed an insurrection and coup to take place without those who voted Republican. Shame. On. YOU!