Richard Ford: How did we in America ever get to this place?

Author Richard Ford reflects on ‘a half-assed coup on a mild winter Wednesday afternoon’

Richard Ford: ‘Many in our farthest-flung states don’t consider Washington their capital.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Richard Ford: ‘Many in our farthest-flung states don’t consider Washington their capital.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

I wasn’t there. I was safely in Maine, where I live, 500 miles away, watching my country be assailed from within on a TV show.

I could’ve been in Montana or Florida or Oregon or Texas – just to give you a spatial glimpse of how citizens here can perhaps entertain a bold, frontal attack on our nation’s capital without experiencing what we might call uniform seriousness. Many in our farthest-flung states find it unwieldy to consider Washington as their capital.

Maybe all violent insurrections – which is what we endured this week – have, at certain moments, a carnival dimension; participants, (otherwise known as seditionists), laughing and capering about in clown gear and stage make-up, taking selfies and videos of the mayhem as it’s happening; their dazed exhorters spouting incendiary vows and imprecations without much thought for what they’re saying or its possible consequences.

It’s a bit like a lynching where tickets were sold, or lions consuming Christians before an appreciative audience. Is it simply, then, that many of us assume our freedoms can’t really be sundered and so who cares? Or is there something about life now, and here, that buffers many Americans from believing that anything we do can really matter all that much?

Gallery

US Capitol riot: In pictures VIEW NOW

That is what I thought when I saw the mob – mostly white people who look much like me – forcing its way rather too easily into our Capitol building, breaking things, waving stupid Confederate flags, hooting and cheering and declaring that they were “taking over,” all while citizens were being shot, the government cast in disarray, and confidence in our institutions even further vitiated.

I thought: these people didn’t seem very serious to me. As if it was all a mode of put-on, play-like – even though there were real bombs planted here and about, hundreds terrified, and a woman died.

What would they possibly have done, one wonders, if they’d succeeded? (Though of course one knows the answer there, and it wouldn’t be pretty.)

Many of us saw this day coming and wrote about it. How then did we in America ever get to this place? A half-assed coup on a mild winter Wednesday afternoon, with a demented president and half the country thinking babies are being eaten in the basement of a Washington pizzeria?

A workable definition of a fool is someone who doesn’t recognise serious from its opposite. If you ask me, at least half of us are there.

And while it may be a joke to some, it can become really deadly really fast if people don’t come to their senses.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.