Here we are, shortly heading into Year 3 of this grim pandemic. I was at the office briefly Friday and ran into Doug from Doug’s Pretty Good Pub. It’s right next door to Media HQ, which is handy if one wants a hamburger, or an adult beverage. We asked after one another, sidewalk small talk. We turned to the pandemic. I had some thoughts.
Well, more accurately, a rant. Year 3, and we can’t even get testing right. We can send people to the moon and back. We can win World War II. We can make electric cars. We can design phones that give you the weather, maps and directions, podcasts, music and TikTok.
Then, about 20 feet away, a car alarm started to blare. It cut off our conversation, which seemed an appropriate coda. Find a COVID test to use at home? I have a better chance of going to the moon or taking up TikTok. On the COVID front:
As of Saturday, 40 hospitals were ordered by the governor and the health commissioner to stop all elective procedures for at least two weeks. Mainly, these are facilities in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Central New York. The hospitals are packed with COVID patients, and things are getting worse. There are exemptions (cancer, cardiac with symptoms, and so on), but that’s a lot of health care that won’t be delivered. And this: Who wants to go to the hospital now? And this: what if there’s a car accident? A bus accident?
We are breaking our health care system. We will rue these years of not being serious. Thursday was January
6, the anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. We know a lot more, now, about what happened, about how much was known ahead of time, how much was planned, about how violent it could have become. It is a small miracle that the then-vice president and some of our lawmakers were not injured or killed. Moments of time made the difference. Moments.
I have come to think of this as a tinderbox. Zip ties. Radios with earpieces. Lumber and rope to make a gallows. Bear spray. Combat style vests. Flagpoles of all sorts, to later use as weapons. The Confederate flag. Who brings these things to what is ostensibly a civil protest and speech by the then-president? Who scales walls and scaffolding at the Capitol, hangs from railings, talks about chasing down Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Pence to “give them the rope.” Breaks down doors, shatters windows. Congressional staff inside the Capitol had to lock their offices, put furniture against the doors, hide under heavy wooden tables. Many other offices were ransacked.
Who does these things, who brings these supplies? Assaults police? Attempts to crush one of them in a doorway? Not tourists, I’ll tell you that. The answer is this: People who intended to prevent a peaceful transfer of power to the incoming president.
Another thing that has crystallized for me in recent weeks is that foreign observers, those in other countries with democratic governments, knew immediately what this meant. Our reputation for an uninterrupted string of the peaceful transfer of power after an election was broken. Over. Does anyone believe that 2024 is going to be peaceful if the election is close? I no longer do.
We now have, thanks to Facebook, the Russians and a credulous populous, millions of people ready to seriously believe that military servers and satellites in Italy – of all places – were used to flip votes. To believe that ballots came from China, and then to actually inspect the ballots for evidence of bamboo (none was found). That Sharpie markers invalidated Trump votes. That Chinese thermostats changed votes. That the Venezuelans were involved in skulduggery. And on and on and on.
I fear that millions of us no longer want to take part in being serious people, in being informed.
One of the other images that has stuck with me is that of the Senate staffers carrying the three 18” by 10” mahogany boxes with them to the safe room. The boxes contained the certified Electoral College votes. Without them, the votes would have fallen into the hands of the rioters. It was these votes, of course, that had drawn the hordes to the Capitol. A Senate aide had directed they be secured, and thank God she did.
Another image is this: Of Assemblyman Colin Schmitt in the doorway of a Shortline bus. He is running for Congress, and is in something of a spat with Orange County Democratic leaders. He’s from New Windsor, just outside Newburgh. Thursday, the anniversary, he put out this statement: “A year ago, Orange County Democrat Chair Brett Broge and Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney attacked me for speaking to members of Orange County Right to Life, which is a faith-based organization, about legislation pending in the State Legislature.”
So, he was ostensibly updating them on the situation in Albany. Right.
Elide is one of my favorite words. That’s what Schmitt has done here. You see, he was speaking in the pre-dawn darkness to people who were headed to the Capitol. Two busloads of them. They were to depart the Shortline commuter park-andride lot in Monroe at 4:30 am. It’s an easy hop onto Route 17 and south. And yes, they happened to be Right to Life backers, and also supporters of the former president. They say they never reached the Capitol in any case, and in a news conference arranged by Schmitt a few days later, some of the Schmitt supporters blamed the riot on “antifa” and “BLM” protesters.
Schmitt and his PR person are prickly about this, as one might expect. And Schmitt did, in fact, condemn the attack, saying at the time, “I am deeply disturbed by the assault on the United States Capitol today. There is absolutely no justification for any form of violence against the pillars of our democracy.”
But I wonder, even more today. What does he think of the election, and whether President Biden is the lawfully elected president? Does he think there was rampant fraud? What does he think of “election integrity”? Does he think “antifa” was involved on Jan. 6, as some of his supporters did?
Our actual Congressman, meanwhile, Rep. Maloney of Cold Spring, was in the chamber that afternoon, steps away from the center doors, which had been barricaded. Officers had drawn their semi-automatic weapons. The mob was in the hall outside. He said on Jan. 6, this year: “Today, we mark one year since a violent mob attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The rioters desecrated the halls of Congress, traumatizing and endangering all those who work in the Capitol, including the many nonpartisan staff who were left to clean up the damage. As we mark this solemn occasion, we honor the sacrifice of the heroic officers who defended the Capitol and we must ensure it never occurs again. At least 140 officers were seriously injured while defending the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Officer Brian Sicknick was killed. Several officers have lost their lives since as a result of trauma from that day. We can best honor their sacrifice by speaking honestly about the events of January 6 and ensuring accountability for all involved.”
Until next week.
I’m Douglas Cunningham and I’m the editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News & Recorder, in Cold Spring. This column is my opinion, and the letters and editorial cartoons and Perspectives are opinions, too. They are protected speech.