“I never expected to see this in my life.” That is the most common statement heard after the ‘peculiar coup’ that was attempted on Epiphany Day on Capitol Hill on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 6th.
These tragic events changed America in the eyes of its friends and foes.
They shattered the radiant veneer of its uniqueness. They tore away the halo she had been wearing for many decades. To me, this is the most serious loss that has resulted from the tragic events that took place.
America still has tremendous economic and military power with which it can impose its will all over the earth.
However, her real strength was the example she set for the whole world. An example of democracy and political freedom, exemplified by two centuries of peaceful transitions of power from the loser to the winner that occurred like historical clockwork without a second thought.
That mechanism has been broken, and it will take a long time to repair.
I write these lines with a heavy heart. With deep sorrow in my soul and concern for our future. I do still have a lot of hope for the United States of America, the leading country in the world, the country that welcomed us and our families, the country where our children and our grandchildren were born, the country where we live.
I want to express that hope – but first we must examine what just happened here in America, the country in which we witnessed scenes that, until yesterday, we saw only in what we derisively called ‘banana republics.’
That was not the America that has been a magnet for millions of immigrants. America does not deserve this. It is not a banana republic.
It is certain that we will overcome it. America is a country that has fallen victim to a ruthless but talented demagogue, who exploits the pain, the economic misery, the abandonment felt by people who feel betrayed by the establishment and the political order in an effort to serve his personal interest.
The tragic events that took place remind us Greeks of the events of 1967. When the tanks of the junta of the colonels surrounded the Parliament of Greece and overthrew the Republic. Yesterday, a great feast day in our Orthodox Faith, unfortunately brought back those painful memories.
We need not belabor the comparison or embellish the facts – the bottom line is that a similar assault on our Democracy happened at the Capitol yesterday during a joint session of Congress. This was a rebellion, an uprising aimed at the overthrow of the Republic – where the instigator-colonel was the sitting President of the country himself. That is why it is characterized as a peculiar coup.
The bitter truth is that we are all responsible for what happened. All of us who have shown him tolerance to some degree.
But the biggest responsibility, after Trump, lies with all those who worked with him for all these years. All those who made it possible, who designed and implemented the policy of division founded on lies and conspiracy theories.
The media that supported him are also complicit. They promoted him and profited from him.
And during the attack on Capitol Hill, while democracy was in jeopardy, while four people were killed, while the lives of the elected representatives of the citizens and the men and women of the security forces were in danger, and while and the country was degraded in the eyes of the world – Trump was absent, silent for a couple of hours.
President-elect Biden had to call on him – even his party leaders had to urge him – to make a statement – which he belatedly and half-heartedly made. But it consisted of the same shameful lies: that the elections were stolen; that his followers were right to be angry – but that they should go home peacefully.
“Go home. We love you,” he told them. “You’re very special,” he said. It was more like a “thank you for your support” than an admonition.
We said that this presidency would not end well.
But we did not expect such an ugly end.
However, America's humiliation can – and should – be the beginning of an in-depth self-examination of the realities that have frustrated so many people, and the beginning of a rebirth of the values and ideas that made this country a beacon of hope and the lighthouse of the world.
But for that to happen, this era must end, and that presupposes the exemplary punishment of those morally responsible for inciting this attempted coup and desecration of the home of American Democracy. The people’s house.
Rebellion against the political establishment cannot go unpunished. If that happens, it will set a deadly precedent for democracy, a blueprint for the next ambitious coup leader in the future.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, even in the United States democracy needs protection. And the most powerful way to protect it is to make an example of the coup plotters and to punish them.
As Karamanlis did with the colonels.