Acknowledging our differences and still treating each other with civility is basic — so basic, it’s the kind of lesson taught in every kindergarten classroom. Still, we’ve learned throughout history that our differences can and will be weaponized. From our religion to our gender identity, to the color of our skin, if we are “other,” we are to be feared, or worse, hated. I know this. You know this.

Donald Trump knew this too, and he weaponized our differences for his personal gain. But this isn’t new. He’s just one of many who has manipulated people for power. The problem is that his manipulation may have broken federal laws, led to violence, put lives at risk, caused others to lose their lives, and threatened our electoral system and our democracy. At least that is what the House select committee was tasked with investigating. And after almost a year of investigation, almost 500 tips, sifting through approximately 140,000 documents, 98 subpoenas, and holding nearly 1,000 interviews, the House select committee is now holding public hearings.

The question is: Should we care?

The answer is: Yes, if we want to protect America.

I watched the first hearing, and it revealed a lot of new information. The deposition from former Attorney General Bill Barr demonstrated that despite being one of Trump’s most staunch supporters, facts are facts: there was no election fraud, and Ivanka Trump admitted she believed him. Jared Kushner exposed that Trump’s behavior leading up to Jan. 6 was so concerning, that House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his team of lawyers threatened to resign. I was stunned to hear that when Trump heard the chants of, “Hang Mike Pence,” his response was, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” that the vice president possibly, “deserves it.”

We learned Fox News host Sean Hannity seemed so taken aback by Trump’s failure to act on Jan. 6, he exchanged texts with Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany suggesting that it might be time for the 25th Amendment to be invoked and Trump removed from office. Finally, testimony from Officer Caroline Edwards offered a grim reminder that the attack led to five officers losing their lives. She spoke of a “war scene,” in which she was “slipping in people’s blood” everywhere. Lest we forget, this was a violent attack by Americans, on Americans.

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Though it wasn’t held during primetime, the second hearing showcased a lot of primetime Trump Republicans. Campaign manager Bill Stepien, Barr, former Acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue, Senior Advisor Jason Miller, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner all told Trump that there was no election fraud and no path to victory. Moreover, 60 court cases demonstrated no evidence of election fraud. Trump was surrounded by his trusted confidants who told him repeatedly that he had lost, that there had been no election fraud, and that there were no legal grounds to overturn the election. The evidence was irrefutable. His insistence to say otherwise indicates willful blindness, meaning he chose to turn a blind eye to the facts. And he used this willful blindness as an opportunity to take advantage of the American people, raising $250 million for a non-existent election defense fund.

The hearings aren’t over, but it’s time for Republicans to stop defending the indefensible and start defending our democracy. It is rubbish and partisan antics to suggest this is a Democratic show to divert our attention away from inflation, gas prices, baby formula, high prescription drug prices, etc. Those are serious issues, yet Americans can focus on more than one thing at a time. Furthermore, investigating the possible overthrow of our government isn’t a show by a bipartisan committee.

Americans deserve to know how close the rioters came to capturing the vice president. More importantly, Americans deserve to know how our president, who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect Americans, sat by, watched this attack, and refused to do his duty. Because eventually, another Trump-like figure looking to weaponize our differences will come. Our job is to be ready.

You don’t have to watch the hearings, but you should still care. They offer facts, not conspiracies, of what happened before and on Jan. 6. The committee’s recommendation to the Department of Justice, while interesting, is less important. The Department of Justice will act independently. More critical is that hearings produce immediate legislative actions, such as clarifying the Electoral Count Act. If not, what prevents this from happening again?

The people who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 aren’t the only ones culpable. There must be consequences for those spreading lies and defrauding the American people. An attempt to obstruct a sacred congressional proceeding for the peaceful transfer of power undermines our democracy. Trump showed us just how easy it is to thumb one’s nose at democracy. It’s not about Trump. It’s about our democracy.

Who is going to defend it?

Hilary Koch lives in Waterville. She can be reached at: [email protected]

 

 


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