On the evening of the mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol, my wife tried to read me a message that had just arrived on her phone. She got halfway through a sentence and then paused. She could either stop talking, or start sobbing.
The message said, “Maybe the members of the U.S. Congress hiding …”
That’s as far as she got.
Finally, after a long silence, she read, “Maybe these terrified members of Congress, hiding in their offices as assailants marched through the halls of the Capitol, can finally understand the fear America’s schoolchildren have gone through on a daily basis in their classrooms.”
That’s how it was in our pre-pandemic world when children went to school every day, remember?
Madmen were walking into schools around America and opening fire on innocents. Teachers were leading drills on how to respond if gunfire should erupt.
And the grownups in charge — including those same members of Congress now expressing their outrage, and their sheer terror, and their sudden demand for more protection — never seemed to get the full impact of what was going on out here in America.
And they never did anything to stop it, because politics got in the way. It got in the way of these alleged leaders reacting as human beings to all of the madness manifesting itself in so many dangerous ways in this country.
The school shootings predated the pandemic, and some of them predated Donald Trump. But they didn’t pre-date the sheer political cowardice — the fear of fallout that finally, perhaps, will get pushed aside in the aftermath of last week’s rioting at the Capitol.
For four years now, we’ve seen the profiles in cowardice from all of Trump’s enablers, who no longer can pretend this president hasn’t been a threat all along to the nation he swore to protect.
Suddenly, with mere days left of Trump’s presidency, these enablers are resigning from office as a gesture of integrity. Where were they before this? Suddenly, there’s talk of impeachment. Where were their votes on the first impeachment?
Suddenly, they’re taking all measures – added police, a seven-foot wall around the Capitol, investigations into what went wrong – to make sure they’re fully protected.
Where were they when schoolchildren needed protection, and these leaders failed to pass simple measures to control the guns and keep them out of the hands of lunatics?
They were cowering in their offices.
These enablers are the same people who stayed silent when Trump repeatedly called journalists “enemies of the people,” when he denigrated his own Justice Department and the FBI, and judges, when he separated terrified immigrant children from their parents.
Silence, every time.
They’re the same people who stayed silent when Trump found “good people” marching with the bigots in Charlottesville; when he tried to swap secrets about Joe Biden for assistance to war-beleaguered Ukraine; when he told us lies about this killer pandemic; and when he launched the multitude of lies about the last election, which led to last week’s rioting.
That riot was the logical conclusion to four years of Trump-induced madness, while his enablers pretended they could do business as usual.
Until last week, when they found themselves cowering in their offices.
Vulnerable as schoolchildren.
As are we all.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” was reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.