Commentary

Peter Berger: The evidence of a seditious plot is only mounting

“Poor Elijah’s Almanack” is written by Peter Berger of Mount Holly, who taught English and history for 30 years.

 Every evening Abby and her Human patrol the half-acre of snow and trees that divide the house light from the outer darkness. Most nights Abby’s senses tell her danger is safely distant.

Other nights, the owl’s perch is closer, and the fox crouches just beyond the brook. The fisher has crossed the road, and an unfamiliar trespasser huddles in old leaves under the porch. 

Abby’s nose is to the ground, her pace is urgent, and she’s barking.

 “It’s all right,” her Human coos obliviously.

 “Are you nuts?” Abby marvels. “Can’t you smell that?”

 I’m Abby’s Human. My woodland senses aren’t as acute as hers. I’m supposed to be able to compensate by thinking rationally. My chief human safeguard is the sense that resides behind my nose and between my ears.

 Just as Abby is appalled at the dullness of my senses, I’m sadly amazed that so many of my countrymen, Republicans and Democrats, seem unaware of our national peril, and how urgent and sinister it is. Even the slim majority of us who believe our “democracy is in danger of collapse” fundamentally disagree about the source of that danger and appear unable or unwilling to consult and heed their chief human sense.

 If you agree with what you read here, I’m writing to fortify your resolve.

 If you think I’m an alarmist, I’m writing to alarm you.

 If you believe I’m wrong, but you love our country, I’m writing to persuade you.

 What country is that?

 The country I’m talking about is undeniably imperfect. At times it’s been grievously imperfect. But it’s the country dedicated to the proposition that we’re all created equal, where each of us is endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

If that doesn’t describe your own best hope for the United States, your disagreement is with Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln.

If you revel in the prospect of American bloodshed, if you make your fortune undermining decency and mocking the law, if you value political gain above the lives of the unvaccinated mothers and fathers you deceive, I leave you to the justice and mercy of the Author of your conscience.

Some Americans note that many of our founders, including the most esteemed, were slaveholders. From that they conclude that white supremacy is our founding principle, a principle to which they’re justified in remaining faithful. They’re wrong. Slavery and its lingering, attendant bigotry are our founding tragic flaw, against which we’ve struggled from our beginning.

Madison denounced slavery as “the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” His Virginia neighbor Jefferson confessed that slavery left him trembling for his country because God’s “justice cannot sleep forever.” For Mr. Lincoln, the Civil War was God’s righteous consequence for slavery’s injustice. It is, as he said, for us the living to dedicate ourselves not to renewed iniquity, but rather to the unfinished work of securing both justice and union.

Present-day Trumpist promoters and provocateurs attempt to divide us with exaggerated, manufactured, misrepresented incitements like critical race theory. There’s certainly room to disagree about specific legislation and policies that address race, and political correctness annoys me, too. 

But after 246 years of slavery and a century and a half of painfully slow, as yet incomplete progress toward equality under the law, a nation that isn’t purposefully addressing racial inequity, past and present, would have to be a stupid nation.

 Are we a stupid nation?

 Lincoln and Jefferson were masters of soaring prose, but they were also lawyers trained to offer proof. Mr. Lincoln’s logic is as elegant and as powerful as his conjuring of our better angels.

The founders published the Declaration of Independence to explain the revolution to the world and to the American people, who — like many of us today — weren’t fully or accurately informed about the politics of their time. That’s why in addition to its famous, lofty assertions of self-evident truths, unalienable rights, and sacred honor, Jefferson offered a bill of indictment against the king as proof and as a reminder of the facts of the case. 

He presented those facts and made his appeal to what he hoped would be a “candid world,” by which he meant people who were open, impartial, honest and sincere. He was confident that a fair, unbiased, candid audience would be able to recognize tyranny and identify the tyrant.

I won’t here recount the facts relevant to Jan. 6, to the months and years of deceit and incitement preceding the insurrection, or to the simmering coup still imperiling our republic.

I’ll instead ask you to consider what you see and hear around you. Noble truths possess the power to persuade us, but so do well-plotted, outrageous lies. Before you embrace the lie that the election was stolen, consider the unrefuted fact that no election count, recount, or audit, whether conducted by Republicans, Democrats, or both, has uncovered any election fraud that could overturn Biden’s election, including three recounts in Georgia alone.

Trump lost Georgia by 11,779 votes. In a recorded Jan. 2 phone call, Trump directed Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Raffensberger, who had supported Trump in the election, to “find 11,780 votes.” When Raffensberger refused, on the grounds that the vote count was accurate, Trump threatened him with criminal prosecution. 

What does that sound like to you?

Consider Trump adviser Bannon’s plan to launch “shock troops” to “man the government” and become “political appointees” after the 2024 election. Consider Bannon’s claim that 2022 Trump rallies are a prelude to unconstitutionally “decertifying” Biden’s election and removing him from office. Consider that Sen. Cruz is talking seriously about secession.

Consider that the evidence of a seditious plot is only mounting. Consider that one year after the insurrection Donald Trump is still spewing the same lies to poison the republic.

Abby isn’t always right, but she’s never been deliberately wrong.

It’s time to give up what we want to believe and embrace instead what the facts compel us to believe. It’s time to be candid, to seek the truth, and when we find it, see it.


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