“The sacred obligation to defend this peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president…Except one.”
-Rep. Liz Cheney
The German film maker Werner Herzog, maker of ’70s and ‘80s epic films such as Fitzcarraldo and Aquirre, The Wrath of God, has ventured outside his preferred ouevre to publish a novel titled The Twilight World, that tells a fictionalized version of the story of Hiroo Onoda, the last man fighting the Second World War, who was finally discovered on a Philippine island in 1974, firmly convinced that the Japanese had not surrendered. He had followed his commander’s last orders to “hold the island until the Imperial Army’s return” and to “defend its territory by guerrilla tactics, at all costs.”
While it is hard to fathom that Onoda remained hidden for 19 years without knowing the truth, it is not inconceivable to think that Onoda, isolated for all those years without any contact with the outside world, could still hold onto his belief that the Japanese empire that he so faithfully served was still fighting for the glory of the Emperor. The same cannot be said for Donald J. Trump, who even now clings to the delusion that he won the last presidential election, although as the January 6 hearings now being held in Congress and seen everywhere except FoxNews clearly demonstrate, Trump was told over and over by his Attorney General, other sane members of his Administration and even his own daughter, that he had lost.
Although the hearings are being denounced by Republicans as a “show trial” and solely political theatre, and the 40% of the electorate who still believe the election was stolen won’t be swayed in any way by the hearings, they are critical to the nation’s well being, not only to set the historical record straight, but to serve as a deterrent for a future that may still include the second election of an aspiring autocrat who was willing to commit, at the least, sedition, and, at worst, treason, to retain power through likely criminal machinations that he continues to use as the basis for returning him to his perceived rightful place at the head of the most powerful and, until now, the most democratic nation on Earth.
Many compare this moment in history to the Watergate Hearings of 1974 that led to the demise of a president who allowed his minions to commit seemingly minor indiscretions, but which had the intended effect of abusing the election process to ensure his re-election. And, as is usually the case, the cover-up was worse than the crime. Nixon ultimately resigned rather than face a probable impeachment and criminal charges arising out of his nefarious actions. But the difference between then and now are obvious, not least that while Republicans initially stood steadfast in defense of Nixon, many ultimately upheld their oaths of office to examine the facts with open minds and eventually voted for several articles of impeachment.
No such open-mindedness will occur today as Republicans follow Trump as blindly as lemmings over a cliff. As unlikely defender of democracy Liz Cheney said, at the opening of the hearings: “[t]onight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” Whether history will judge her erstwhile colleagues so harshly remains to be seen, but the sheer audacity of the McCarthys and Jordans and Perrys to defend the conduct of Trump and his gang of thugs should make us all tremble at the likelihood of their regaining the majority in the next Congress.
Of course the hearings now bring unceasing pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to bring criminal charges against Trump given the stark facts that are, if not emerging at least coalescing, through the hearings. But the likelihood of a Trump indictment, much less, conviction, are minuscule given the political realities. If nothing else, such charges would open the door to prosecution of former presidents of the opposition party reminiscent of the actions banana republics engage in that are supposedly antithetical to the principles of this democratic country.
While many of us can understand and even sympathize with Hiroo Onoda for his blind but misguided loyalty, the same cannot be felt for Donald J. Trump. While Onoda’s isolation precluded him from learning the truth of the demise of the Japanese Empire, Trump has no such defense. The facts were plainly laid out to him over and over. But he did and continues to do what he does best: lie. Maybe, like Hamlet, he is haunted by his father’s ghost, not to seek vengeance on his murderer, but lambasting him with his worst possible opprobrium: “Loser.” In this case, the truth truly does hurt.