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The silver lining in the events of Jan. 6 | READER COMMENTARY

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

I prefer to be an optimist about our country and its future. The last four years have turned me into a pessimist. But in Wednesday’s unforgettable and unforgivable events, I found reason for a sliver of gratitude that the worst president we’ve ever known, and those of his supporters who mindlessly and lawlessly devote themselves to him as opposed to our democracy, have provided with the greatest clarity a better understanding of who we are as a country and what must be done if we are to reverse our national decline.

And so, I thank you Donald Trump for:

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  • Demonstrating that you are indeed a traitor;
  • Making it crystal clear, with no room for backtracking, that you have attempted a coup, culminated by inciting violence at the very center of our democracy, and by egging on your right-wing extremist supporters who have mindlessly swallowed your lies, and who launched the insurrection for which they have been spoiling.
  • Demonstrating with clarity the fragility and vulnerability of our democracy that complacency and ignorance have concealed, and for providing the opportunity, if we are wise enough to seize it, to reinforce a structure which, while it thankfully has remained standing, shook to its core and is in great need of repair.
  • Exposing members of Congress whose devotion to their own misguided political interests has Trumped their duty to preserve, protect and defend the very Constitution that they fraudulently claim to revere. Many will be reelected by misguided constituents, but the stain will be indelible.
  • The lesson that many — hopefully most — progressives should have learned by now (and which Shay’s rebellion, the Whiskey rebellion and our tragic Civil War should etch into our civic consciousness) that a significant sector of Americans have in the past, and will in the future, put themselves and their own self-interests so far ahead of the common good that they are willing to incite violence and sacrifice the rule of law and our very existence as a nation to achieve their narrow aims.

Does this mean that I’m now optimistic? Not really. Does this ensure that we will have smooth sailing to Jan. 20 and beyond? Of course not. But in an ironic and tragic twist, yesterday’s events may have sparked the fracture we’ve needed in the support this criminal con man has won to his side. If enough of them believe that his treasonous acts of Jan. 6 that sparked one of the darkest events in American history means that he is no longer worthy of their support, then perhaps we can hope for the more manageable — though still unsettling — reality that an minimum (perhaps one in four) of Americans are (and are likely to continue to be) blinded by hatred, racism, a lust for violence and their own inadequacies.

Hope is not a strategy, but the resilience of our damaged democratic structure, and the clear and compelling case for reinforcing it, provides some basis for a glimmer of optimism.

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Hal Kassoff, Columbia

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