We have met the enemy — and it’s us

by Martin Schram

Historically, the most horrific attacks on America have come from half a world away.

America’s enemies bombed U.S. navy ships at Pearl Harbor, collapsed the World Trade Center’s twin towers, smashed a hole in the Pentagon and would have shattered the Capitol Dome except for the midair heroics of a handful of America’s best.

Now our enemies have hit us where the rest of us live. And yet we aren’t even sure who our real enemies are.

Our news screens are bombarding us with an onslaught of lies that are intended to shatter Americans’ faith in our seemingly once-indestructible constitutional democracy. That’s just what Russia’s Vladimir Putin wanted when, as U.S. intelligence warned us, he ordered cyber-sabotage of U.S. elections in an attempt to elect and reelect Donald Trump. Now Putin is thrilled that Trump is saying what could be Kremlin talking points — his false claim that he was reelected in a landslide that was stolen. And tremulous Republicans now parrot his lies.

But Putin isn’t our democracy’s real problem — and frankly, neither is Trump. Our problem can be found a lot closer to home.

Today we must patriotically set out to find our democracy’s real enemy and fix our real problem. We must start the way Alice started her curious adventure — by stepping Through the News-Screen and following the Great News Funnel to where it spills out — right into your own living room!

Now we can hear the voice-of-the-people Trump and all Republican allies are hearing and heeding. If the voice isn’t your neighbor next door, across the street or across the backyard fence — well, I guess it’s you who are pleading to the politicos:

“Please lie to me!”

It’s the voice of people who are stressed out and fed up. They just want to hear things that feel good (true, false, whatever!). If that’s you we are hearing, well, you are America’s problem.

So come with me back Through the News-Screen so we can watch our pols at last Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing. Four Republican committee members took pains to make us feel good by assuring us that we really didn’t see what we indeed saw, back in the Jan. 6 mob insurrection at the Capitol. We remember seeing violent men clubbing police with a flagpole bearing the U.S. flag. We remember a mob breaking glass to enter the top-security Capitol, where people died that day. We saw video of a policeman being beaten while others shouted to shoot him with his own gun. And others chanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence because he was willing to do his job and fulfill his constitutional duty by reading aloud the certified 2020 vote totals.

That’s what we saw. Now here is Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who won hugely in his district that voted for Trump, telling us his feel-good version of what we all saw:

“There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January 6th, you’d actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

One of Clyde’s Republican House colleagues, who also won hugely in a district that voted for Trump, puts into perspective the problem Republican voters now confront. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who says he can no longer support Trump — puts his party’s dilemma into its sadly proper perspective:

“If you’re a base Republican voter and every one of the people you trust is saying Jan. 6 didn’t happen and the election was stolen, we can’t really blame them for believing that. … When all their leaders are lying to them, of course they’re going to believe it.”

There’s no stereotyping today’s “Please lie to me!” Republican voters. They are in our cities, our farmlands and all over our suburbs. They are rich, poor or comfortably middle class. You know them when you see them — maybe in the bathroom mirror every morning.

Saving America’s Democracy is a one-act, one-actor show that we all must star in. The dialogue comes down to the one essential question for demonstrating patriotism and saving democracy: Do you have the guts to throw a liar out of office?

If you are a patriotic American voter, there is only one answer: Yes. If not, then you are among those who satirist Walt Kelly famously spoke of long ago in his legendary “Pogo” comic strip about a possum’s life in the Okefenokee Swamp, when he wrote:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.