At last, reality seems ready to reassert itself.
For years, we Americans have been lost in a state resembling a dreamy nightmare, a fantasy existence in which up was down, wrong was right and falsity was truth. It was a place where there seemed to be no consequences for the grossest misbehavior, even that born of the most callous cruelty.
Those who conducted themselves in ways that were irresponsible, even reprehensible, floated on as if the moral laws of the universe had been canceled.
Thus, we Americans saw conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars spin noxious and spurious tales about the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and elsewhere, heedless of the additional hurt he inflicted on families who had lost children and other loved ones, with no apparent checks on his maliciousness.
We watched as a president, a man who placed his hand on the Bible and swore to defend this country and the U.S. Constitution, summoned a mob to the Capitol to overturn a legitimate election, without bearing any cost for his betrayal.
We have observed newly ascendant Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives engage in what amounts to a food fight to select their new leader while threatening to crash the U.S. and world economies by refusing to increase the limit on the debt ceiling.
It seemed that this country, which was born of a belief that people were rational beings who could govern themselves, had been delivered into the care of ethical imbeciles, creatures who had no concern for either the greater good or any other man, woman or child.
But reality doesn’t sleep forever.
The courts now have hit Jones with one telling ruling after another, burying him in billions of dollars’ worth of judgments he must pay to the mourning families he tormented for fun and profit. When he taunted those families by saying he would retreat into the labyrinth of bankruptcy proceedings to avoid paying what he owed them, the courts worked to cut off that path.
And thus, hold him accountable for his years of misconduct and cruelty.
Former President Donald Trump seemed to sail both above the tumult he created and beyond the reach of the law itself. But the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection used an unusual tactic to make clear just how much responsibility the onetime commander-in-chief bore for that attack on this nation and its constitution.
The committee turned Trump, his allies and his aides in effect into prosecutors against themselves, using their own words and actions to demonstrate how heedless they were of their constitutional responsibilities and how insolent was their refusal to honor the law—any law.
Other members of Congress realized no one could indict Donald Trump more effectively than Trump himself and took a similar tack. They released his tax returns, which, unadorned, revealed the scope of the grift he ran on the presidency and the people whose interests he took an oath to represent and protect.
While the Republicans in the House continued their spectacular imitation of toddlers who have missed naptime, the members of the U.S. Senate—both Republican and Democrat—rekindled the fires of responsibility.
Realizing that the House Republicans likely would not be capable of much more than howling at the moon for the next two years, the party of Lincoln and the party of Jefferson and Jackson for a moment put aside their differences, which are profound, to see that this nation and its people did not suffer from what would have amounted to a grievous self-inflicted wound. They put together a budget deal that could be adopted and put into place before the GOP food fighters take control of the House in the new year.
No one—Republican, Democrat or independent—would call any of these outcomes perfect.
In a perfect world, Alex Jones never would have added to the suffering of grieving families because those families never would have lost loved ones. We never would have had a president who attacked the very nation he was obligated to defend. And everyone from every political party would realize that debts must be honored and paid.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
We live in a real one in which actual human beings suffer genuine harm when people who should know better do the wrong thing.
It’s good to see that we’re finally acknowledging that again.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected].