January 6th always will have another meaning now, beyond the traditions of Epiphany. I was pleased to join about a hundred people – maybe two hundred – in front of the Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse on that date. Hubby and I adored Sam and his Martha, and I'm sure they would have approved of this vigil. It was scheduled for sundown, and after holding signs and waving flags at the edge of the streets, we lit electric candles and sang "America the Beautiful" and other love songs to our country.
Lots of cars were leaving downtown on rapidly moving Florida Avenue, but many had to pause for red lights, which gave them enough time to read our signs. I'm pleased to say that the great majority of responses were positive; I saw only one negative guy. Messages on some signs were directed to our US senators, whose offices are in the courthouse, but of course there was no response from Marco Rubio or Rick Scott. They continue to be oblivious to last year's right-wing attack on our national capitol.
COVID doubtless limited the size of the crowd, but the media should have been there to report on the event. I saw zero coverage: not in the Tampa Bay Times nor any of our television stations and not even public radio. I've had enough organizing experience to know that this will be blamed on inexperienced organizers, but that doesn't excuse media apathy.
Journalists are proud of their ability to ferret out stories, and they shouldn't need a fancy press kit to show up. They had the resources that day to cover the Tarpon Springs Epiphany dive for the umpteenth time, and they could have covered this, too. They should remember that a free press is the first institution to go when fascist thugs take over. They should not ignore a vigil for democracy.
MORE, BUT DIFFERENT
One of my daily news sources is Morning Brew, which is primarily oriented to cool young business people. Yet more than many straightforwardly political writers, these guys got it right re January 6. I'm sure they won't mind if I quote at length:
"One year ago today, hundreds of supporters of former President Trump attacked the US Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the free and fair 2020 presidential election. They weren't they only ones attempting to decertify the election: After the attack had been subdued, 147 Republican members of Congress voted to overturn the election results…
"Not wanting to be associated with the dismantling of democracy, major corporations in the US condemned the violence and affirmed the peaceful transition of power… Many pledged to stop donations to the election objectors…
"Surprise – corporations have mostly kept their commitments and significantly drawn down their giving to the objectors. An analysis by Popular Information found that…PAC contributions to the GOP objectors had dropped from 60% to 20% in the first six months of 2021."
Some businesses continued to pour money into the coffers of their favorite puppets, of course, especially PACs related to the defense industry. I'm not a fulltime dig-into-it journalist, so I'm not going to trouble myself about who among our local GOP congressmen (and they are all men) are among the recipients of this filthy lucre. But last January 6, you and I witnessed on television the Republicans who tripped down stairs in lockstep to register their vote against recognizing the vote of the people. Among them was my own representative, Scott Franklin of Polk County, and that makes me sad.
FINAL COMMENT ON THIS DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY
The New York Times ran an editorial on January 5 titled "Trump Isn't the Only One to Blame." The editors are right: the people who followed his orders to march down Pennsylvania Avenue ultimately have to blame themselves – and in fact many are defending themselves against criminal charges, while their commander, Armchair Donald, sits comfortably. What I found most striking about the editorial, though, is the way that it drew attention to the over-inflated egos of right-wingers, a problem that has continued since they erroneously called themselves "The Silent Majority" back in the 1980s.
"At no point in his political career," said the Times, "has Mr. Trump enjoyed the support of the majority of the country he governed for four years. Jan. 6 should be understood first and foremost as an expression of disbelief in – or at least rejection of --- reality." The editors took their case beyond recent events, adding: "Twice already in this young century, the Republican Party has won the Electoral College and thus the presidency while losing the popular vote." That would be Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, who won yet lost.
Nor is it just the White House, as the system for the US Senate also counts the votes of people in rural states to be worth much more than those of us in urban states. The result is that "Republicans in the Senate haven't represented a majority of Americans since the 1990s, yet they've controlled the chamber for roughly half of the past 20 years. In 2012 the party kept control of the House even though the Democrats won more votes."
Republican gerrymandering at the state level explains the situation in the US House, but the Senate situation is because every state is entitled to two senators, no matter how small its population. Ten states have populations smaller than just Hillsborough County, let alone the rest of Florida. Those ten states elect twenty US senators, compared with our two.
In acknowledging the difficult constitutional problem of overcoming this disenfranchisement of equal votes, the Times eluded to the only part of the continental US that still lacks fundamental citizenship rights, Washington DC. Its population is greater than that of Wyoming or Vermont, and the editors said: "It should never be forgotten that fully enfranchised voters from around the country gathered to stage a riot over their threatened political rights in a city of 700,000 people who don't have a full vote in Congress."
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE
It's too easy to get down in the depressive swamp, while failing to raise one's eyes to the skies. Hubby, being a professional philosopher with a background in science and math, always kept a long-term, dispassionate view -- and among the many times that I miss him is when I would like to discuss good news about the scientific world. I think of Bill Nelson, too, who after decades in Congress, was appointed by President Biden to run NASA. Unlike the battlefront that politics has become, cooler heads prevail there, and it is they who lead us into the future.
I'm sure you saw the stories about the new Webb telescope, which replaced the Hubble that functioned so well for so long. Webb was launched on Christmas morning, and last week it successfully opened its folded sunscreen, the size of a tennis court. With that now in place, NASA expects that ultimately the orbital observatory will "peer back in time 13.7 billion years, within a mere 100 million years of the universe-forming big bang."
"We are going to discover incredible things that we never imagined," said Florida's own Bill Nelson. He called Webb a "time machine that that will provide a better understanding of our universe and our place in it: who we are, what we are, the search that's eternal." That's what is important, and I so wish that Hubby were here to share this huge piece of the history of humanity. I'd also like to point out that Nelson is even older than my ancient self. Experience matters, patience matters. Hang in.