As Hubby used to say of political meetings, "Everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it." That's how I feel about the crisis of January 6, 2021, a date that will live in infamy. Great quantities of ink and even more pixels have covered it – and yet there are a few things I want to say that I hope aren't too repetitive. Because I never watch television during daytime, it was the internet that alerted me to what was going on in Washington. I turned on the TV and watched into the next morning, making notes on a handy scrap of newspaper that soon became too small.
First off, let's return to the date, January 6th. I was so pleased that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the day by referring to that. Her Italian heritage makes her more aware than most Americans that this is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. I first realized the importance of January 6th when I taught in Massachusetts: my students with Greek and Italian heritage called it "Little Christmas" and stayed home from school. I understood: they learned more important cultural lessons than anything I could have taught them on one day.
Tampa Bay Hispanics celebrate it as "Three Kings Day," and commemorate the day with gifts in emulation of the Magi. The festival has penetrated Anglo consciousness enough that stores sell Three-Kings cakes: gaily decorated with colored sugar, they have a plastic image of the Baby Jesus hidden inside, and the person who gets it will have good luck the next year. Tarpon Springs and the Greek Orthodox boys who dive for the cross is a similar Epiphany celebration. So I was glad that Speaker Pelosi not only recognized the ancient meaning of the date, but also began with a brief prayer. I usually don't approve of prayer in public places, but by the day's end, this one had proven its value.
She handled the invasion and its chaos beautifully and even after a thug had occupied her office chair, courageously insisted that the House return to business that evening. I predict that Nancy Pelosi will go down in history as the greatest House Speaker ever. A few decades ago, she would have had to wrestle for the title with Kentuckian Henry Clay, who was elected and re-elected by his colleagues in the decades prior to the Civil War. Not surprisingly, he was known as "The Great Compromiser," or dealmaker. But compromise did not end slavery, and Nancy Pelosi does not compromise her principles.
MORE HONORABLE WOMEN
First, of course, our own Kathy Castor. In all the hours of watching that I did, switching from channel to channel, she was the only person who called the thugs attacking the Capitol "a racist mob." Lots of other people used "mob" and "rioters" and "insurrectionists" and other terms, but Kathy was the only one who prefaced that her noun with the adjective, "racist." It was indeed racist, something that the lawbreakers didn't hide. Virtually all white and mostly male, they carried Confederate flags and hurled incendiary slurs at black police officers.
I also trust you noticed that the first people to resign from Trump's administration in disgust were Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos. Other lower-level women followed, and some men – but these two stand out because they were the ONLY women Trump appointed to his Cabinet. I rather hesitate to praise these Republicans, as their goals are not mine, but in proportionate terms, women again showed much more courage and principle.
I would love to have been a fly on the bedroom wall of Elaine Chao and her husband, Senate President Mitch McConnell. I'm sure history will show that she pushed him to finally do the right thing and drop the baseless objections to the Democratic victory. Republican women in the Senate, too, refused to go along with partisan plans to overthrow the people's votes, especially Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Maine's Susan Collins. In the House, even Wyoming's Liz Cheney spoke out for fairness. She is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and apparently has learned some things since her days as a radical Republican firebrand.
Even poor Kelly Loeffler joined these principled Republican women. When she took to the podium, she had just returned to the Capitol after losing her Georgia election the previous day. In a weak voice that sounded almost like a teenager, she said she would not join those who wanted to stall certification. In the Senate for just a year, she had been a good-looking, affluent puppet for her party, appointed to a vacancy by Republican Governor Brian Kemp – the same guy that Trump accused of participating in a "stolen" election. Loeffler is an owner of the Women's National Basketball Association, and some players now are calling for her to divest, saying her values don't match those of the league.
Before the invasion, during the first debate on Arizona's voting results, a former frat boy now elevated to the Senate, James Lankford of Oklahoma, used this historic opportunity to be jocular. Even surrounded by majestic symbolism and in the midst of crisis, other men like him also conveyed the sense that governing is just another sport, with winners and losers. Donald Trump uses humor only in the bullying sense, but he understands the mindset of bad jokesters. He called Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach – not Vice President Pence – for information when the riots erupted. Tuberville was using a borrowed phone, and the call ended only when the owner wanted it back. Tuberville returned to the chamber and followed the White House playbook, becoming one of the six senators, all Republicans, who followed Trump's orders.
Rudy Giuliani also attempted to call Tuberville and left a long message – at the wrong number. I hope New Yorkers take a long look at some of the clowns they have elected in the past and do a better job in this year's mayoral election. I also hope Alabama takes a page from Georgia and releases Tuberville and other ignoramuses from DC duty. It's notable that Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who has been in Alabama government since God was a boy, seems to have spoken nary a word lately. And although you can't blame him, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was appointed and then fired by Trump, also has been quiet.
Attention now has focused on the Capitol Police as the law enforcement agency most responsible for failing to enforce the law, but during the first hours of live coverage, I kept a list of agencies that commentators mentioned as being involved: the FBI, US Marshalls, the National Guard, DC police, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and even the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which dates to moonshining days). From my own experience living in DC, I would add the US Park Police, who monitor the public lands along the Potomac monuments.
My first thought after making this list was that we have too many agencies and they probably compete too much. In this attention-getting case, though, I think they will cooperate in bringing the perps to justice. Plus, it is scary to contemplate a merger that might give us a too-encompassing paramilitary force. From Hubby's experience as an intelligence agent, I know that the military also has way too many agencies and bureaus – but it may be a good thing to encourage, for instance, the Army and Navy to carry out their rivalries on the football field instead of as a combined force that could encourage fascism. Indeed, having a plethora of Pentagons bigwigs may have just saved our collective selves.
THE QUEEN AND THE POPE
It's hard to fault people who think government resembles a soap opera and that it is too difficult to differentiate the many characters, but one easy clue is to trust women. Although Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi was one of the six senators to hang with Trump to the end, she was the only woman. I think the record shows that more than most men, most women are indeed more thoughtful, more conscientious, and less power-hungry. And that brings me back to the holidays, the Queen, and the Pope.
Our family's Christmas Eve tradition was to drive around Brandon admiring decorations – that is, Hubby drove, while I sipped champagne. Then we would go to the Columbia for the 9:00 seating. I always had the traditional Christmas dinner of mojo pork, black beans and rice, plantains, and of course, the 1905 salad. We went home after the floor show, in time to catch Midnight Mass on NBC. Our daughter, who fixed the Columbia's menu for me this year – my first Christmas without Hubby -- is very much an Anglophile, and after presents are opened on Christmas morning, she insists on watching the Queen's Message.
More than other years, I was really looking forward to hearing what the Pope had to say about 2020. It turned out to be almost nothing, and I was disappointed. I expected that the Vatican pageantry would be reduced, and it was – few flowers, no children in native dress, and some other flourishes that I enjoy. Of course the Swiss Guard still wore their fuss-and-feathers medieval uniforms and the leading clergymen wore their gold-threaded garments, while unembellished black-robed nuns sat quietly behind them. Pope Francis also carried the ceramic infant down the aisle of St. Peter's Basilica, but not as far as the traditional outdoor stable. I wonder why – and I've wondered for years why depictions of the Baby Jesus rarely show him wrapped in swaddling clothes.
So I turned away from Pope Francis feeling uncomforted, as if he chose to ignore the world's great pain at this troubled time in history. Queen Elizabeth the next day was far better. Simply but elegantly dressed, she stood at her unadorned desk in Windsor Castle and got straight to the point. She acknowledged COVID in her first sentences and offered sympathy to those of us who are struggling with the loss of loved ones. She said we should trust experts and stop scorning science. She pointed to the fact that this is a global epidemic that requires global cooperation. She all but said that Boris Johnson was wrong to follow the path of flamethrower Donald Trump and withdraw the UK from the EU. The queen closed with sincere hopes for a better new year.
I'm going to predict that it will go on as one of the best royal speeches ever. I also am happy to remind you that both Elizabeth II and Nancy Pelosi are old. The queen is 94, and the Democratic leader is 80. There's much to be said for longevity and the lessons that time teaches us if we pay attention. They certainly provide me with daily inspiration.