Submitted by Richard Wolfram, Old Greenwich
Last Wednesday, as everyone knows by now, a mob of hundreds if not thousands of extreme right-wing fanatics and anarchists overwhelmed the Capitol Police and stormed the Nation’s Capitol, marauding, killing (a Capitol policeman), wreaking destruction and desecrating the universal symbol of our democracy. The next day, in the Greenwich Free Press, both First Selectman Camillo (Camillo: Violence in Washington, DC Is Disgraceful, Jan 7, 2020) and Joe Angland, on behalf of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, (Greenwich DTC: Insurrection in DC is repugnant and horrifying, Jan 7, 2020) commendably issued strong condemnations of these lawless acts, which were nothing less than a full frontal attack on our democracy itself.
And there is no dispute: President Trump incited this conduct – provoking the rioters, coddling them and then, even as they were marauding through the Capitol itself, calling them “special” and saying that he “loved them.” Really? No less a conservative force – traditional ‘influencer’ – than the Wall Street Journal, the financial/business newspaper of record in the United States, has called for Trump’s resignation, joined by the National Association of Manufacturers, with its many Fortune 500 members, now some 200 Members of Congress, including even some Republicans, and a list of major corporations, law firms and public figures that grows by the day.
Many of the speeches by Senators on the Floor late last Wednesday night, as that body reconvened after the mayhem to proceed with certification of the electoral results, were stirring.
And many Americans, watching, sensed a common humanity with the Senators in the emotion expressed in their words and their delivery. One speech, by Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, struck a slightly different note. Several days earlier, Sasse, a committed conservative,
had published a sharp, factual, well-reasoned point-by-point rebuke of his fellow Republican Senators and Members of Congress who had announced their intention to object to the certification, as they heeded Trump’s call to question and try to undermine the democratic expression of the will of the people through their votes on November 3rd. Wednesday night, on the Floor, Sasse offered a sort of ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ lecture on taking care of our kids, teaching them right – looking after our communities and neighborhoods, doing the right thing¸ starting at home. Sasse had a very good point: civics, and standing up for our democracy, starts at home, in our neighborhoods, in our communities. And our local elected officials and organizations can – and should – lead by example, first of all by speaking out. If ever there was a time in our lifetimes to speak out, with our democracy so visibly and painfully under assault by domestic forces of ignorance, mendacity and sheer fanaticism, this is it. Sasse is right – we have to do this right here, in Old Greenwich, Greenwich, Cos Cob, Riverside and Byram, and in our communities around the country.
And what have we done? Our First Selectman and the DTC have spoken. (And see also, for instance, Greenwich resident David S. Elkind’s letter in The New York Times of Friday, Jan. 8th, and statements by other Greenwich residents quoted in other local paper media.)
But from the Greenwich Republican Town Committee, nothing, and days have passed since last Wednesday.
The RTC presumes to speak for a substantial percentage of the local population (and surely knows its way to the Letters page of the GFP). But not a word, and the RTC’s silence speaks volumes. ‘Get along, go along’, although common, is not acceptable, now less than ever.
Democracy is a privilege, not a right. We have seen what happens when citizens fail to speak up. Democracy is not self-activating or self-sustaining. We must defend and nourish it, and right now that means speaking up emphatically in its defense.
The dark forces of mayhem, destruction and violence, so surprisingly and disturbingly ignored by authorities leading up to the assault on January 6th, are reportedly whipping themselves up again into an even greater frenzy, fortified by their self-proclaimed ‘success’ on the 6th, with threats this time to disrupt the Inauguration.
How should we respond? ‘If you see something, say something’, goes the message. Those who stick their heads in the sand and remain silent in the face of such affronts and threats to our democracy – not this legislation or that bill, but our very democracy itself – enable the assaulters.
Their fire, rather than facing cold dousing rebuke, instead draws strength from the dim, quiet embers of that silence, understanding it to be tacit approval. And so one has to wonder: in our own community, right here where democracy starts, as Senator Sasse reminds us, why has the RTC not spoken up. And will it? And if not, what does that say about us? What, in short, does that say about Greenwich – our town?