A Fragile Democracy

For several decades, the United States was considered by many as a beacon of democracy around the world. No longer. The events of January 6 have shown that what was once considered a model of the rule of law is instead a fragile democracy, vulnerable to unpredictable events. What happened that day threatened the rule of law and the future of the country as a democracy to be emulated.

The import of the insurrection of January 6 and the events that preceded it, have not yet been properly assessed. The country was at risk of collapse and we were not fully aware of it. It is as if part of the citizenry continues to suffer the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, one of whose symptoms is trouble recalling an event too stressful to bear.

Who can blame those that want to ignore or forget? Something totally unprecedented had happened in the country. The president himself had staged a coup to overturn the election results and remain in power. In the process, the unruly mob threatened the lives of Mike Pence, his loyal-to-a-fault vice president, and scores of lawmakers who had to run and hide to avoid being maimed or killed by the mobsters. And while these events were happening the President himself and his entourage were following with glee the riots in the Capitol. It cannot get any sicker than this.

Not generally considered is what would have happened if instead of two people killed that day there would have been more (a third one died days later.) We all saw vice president Pence being hurriedly led to a security location by the secret service agents. What if he had been injured or killed? What is something serious would have happened to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? In both instances, one can only anticipate an ensuing institutional chaos.

Of particular concern is that some members of Congress allegedly led some of the mobsters on a recognition visit of the Capitol before January 6, in effect conspiring with them to more effectively attack their own colleagues. This reveals a degree of human loathsomeness difficult to fathom.

These, however, were not isolated episodes. They are the culmination of a four-year process that began with the election of a notably defective candidate, known mainly as the host of a popular reality-style TV program coupled with an extravagant lifestyle. Donald Trump’s shortcomings were only unknown to those who either ignored or refused to believe the serious accusations of rape, cheating, abuse and illegal actions from a notorious psychopathic personality. Several prestigious psychiatrists from the Yale School of Medicine had warned about the dangers of a psychopathic personality in power, one of them being indescribably callous to the feelings and needs of others.

Trump’s personality shortcomings led to a most serious consequence: the inappropriate response to the coronavirus pandemic that has already cost more than a half a million lives. Most of those deaths could have been easily prevented by making the country aware of the seriousness of the pandemic, and immediately creating a task force to respond to the crisis. Their recommendations would be strictly followed, thereby establishing a rational national strategy to confront the pandemic and supply adequate resources to the states.

None of those conditions was followed, however, leading to the now well-known catastrophic results. Instead, we had a leader impervious to the needs of the people and the nation, who worsened an already critical situation by promoting false cures for the infection that led to even more preventable deaths. In short, the former president’s behavior was criminal.

Thus, the country that for centuries had developed a system of government and justice became a victim to the whims of a psychopathic personality who in the short period of four years threatened to destroy hard-earned advances towards a democratic and pluralistic society. It shows that unless we are serious in restoring the values fundamental to its existence, we will become one of those countries south of the border pejoratively called “banana republics.”

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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