Where Were You When You Heard That Biden Abolished America?
Four times, in my whole life. On only three other occasions can I recall the extraordinary emotion I experienced when I heard over the phone (before it made the news) about the FBI’s raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. The feeling of a world long taken for granted, now crumbling into shards like a smashed-in auto windshield. Then you realize you’re in the front seat, and wonder if you will die now.
Once when I was 12 and my parents talked about getting a divorce, and argued about which would “get” me.
Once on 9/11, when I learned that my city and country were under attack, that beyond the Towers the Pentagon had been hit, and we had no idea who was behind it. Maybe Russia or China, which meant we were in World War III.
Once just this week, when federal agents executed a nakedly political raid on the president’s partisan rival, proving that the Regime they serve is utterly, callously lawless. And no one is safe.
When the Cold War Almost Started Again
But I want to talk here about the other time I felt such existential vertigo, when my whole body starting with my gut fairly screamed: “It’s all falling apart!”
It also happened in August, some 31 years ago. On the 19th of that month in 1991, hard-line Communists attempted a coup against reformer Mikhail Gorbachev — the idealistic Communist who’d tried to save the Soviet system, but let loose the forces that would destroy it. He’d already pulled Russian troops out of Eastern Europe, and allowed democratic revolutions to sweep the old Soviet bloc. Now nostalgic Red imperialists were determined to boot him from power, and relaunch the Cold War.
I was sitting in a car in Baton Rouge that day, and heard the news on the radio. “Okay,” I said to myself. “Then it will happen that way after all.” By that, I meant that I would likely die in a nuclear explosion, along with everyone I knew and much of the world’s population. I realized in that moment that this was how I’d always expected to leave this earth, with no warning, no time to repent, no children or grandchildren, no marker for my grave, no survivors to even remember.
Growing up in the Cold War, a lot of us believed this. I’d seen the documentaries on TV, read scenarios of the fallout from nuclear war. And it haunted me, in my waking life and my dreams. More than once I’d seen my body hit by a blast wave and torn to pieces, or by flames and incinerated, then woken up shaking and sweating.
The Fire Next Time
On that August day, it came to me that for the past couple of years, since Gorbachev started his reforms, I’d begun to hope for something better. And then to believe it, to believe that there might be some point in getting married, writing a novel, or saving for retirement. But these Soviet generals had come along and corrected me, restored the status quo of mutual suicide as the way the world would end. I bitterly recalled the lines from a black spiritual:
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, the Fire next time.
Within three days, the coup had failed. Hope flooded back. When I saw Boris Yeltsin riding that tank in Moscow against the coup plotters’ soldiers, I wanted to find him and kiss his hand. Maybe, just maybe, after all, there was earthly hope for a normal course of life for me and my generation.
I needed to tell that story to convey to all of you how nightmarish is the news that our Deep State is willing to act like Soviet coup plotters, and pervert the course of politics. To criminalize dissent, in true Soviet fashion, to go along with the show trials going on in Congress over January 6, and the fake ballots and bootlicking media of November 3, 2020.
We have been living in a kind of good dream, since 1776. Or perhaps, more accurately, since 1783. That’s the year when George Washington faced a mutinous Continental Army. Though they’d won the war against Britain, they’d been stiffed for years of pay by a skinflint Congress. Denied the pensions they’d been promised.
Hungry and bitter, the soldiers planned to send Congress an ultimatum threatening to march down and seize its authority — putting the infant republic on the bitter path that would later be trod by Mexico, Columbia, and countless other new countries, of juntas and dictatorships.
Not Only Gray But Almost Blind
On March 15, the leading conspirators gathered for a last meeting before they’d send Congress their threat.
And George Washington surprised them by showing up. They didn’t spare him their anger, though he bore none of the fault — having gone equally unpaid, and dipped heavily into his own savings to buy them bullets and food. Miguel Ortiz tells the story beautifully:
Washington delivered a short but passionate speech, now known as the Newburgh Address, in which he called for patience. He asked his officers to oppose anyone ‘who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.’ Afterwards, he pulled out a letter from a member of Congress to read to the officers. However, Washington simply gazed upon the letter and fumbled with it. Then, he pulled out a new pair of glasses and said, ‘Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.’
For Washington to produce his glasses before his officers, most of whom had never seen him with spectacles, was an admittance of age and weariness. This great hero of the American Revolution that they had followed for years reduced himself to an old man before their eyes.
The soldiers broke down weeping. A very dark future timeline was shoved aside, and our birth in freedom redeemed.
The Common Curse of Mankind
That day George Washington helped save us and our ancestors from the common curse of mankind, being ruled by self-serving despots — who wield the power of the State for its own sake, to hide their crimes and silence their rivals.
Thus ruled the Pharaohs, and Roman emperors, and feudal warlords, and Renaissance tyrants and absolute monarchs. Thus would rule the dictators, the Party Chairmen and the “Presidents for Life.” But not in America. We would remain the exception, and that is the only real meaning of American exceptionalism.
When Joe Biden and Merrick Garland and the staff of the FBI approved that raid on Donald Trump and carried it out, they may well have undone what Washington accomplished. They may have forced on all of us a dark and divisive future, with no peaceful outcome possible.
That’s why I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when the bottom fell out of my country.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”