Carol looked up from her Sudoku puzzle. "What's on?"
I punched the remote and tried a few of our favorite channels. "News." When DirecTV was working at all, it offered only two channels - CNN and ABC. Erin Burnett was again giving her viewers a summary of the events of the past five months.
After the election last November, things were fairly calm for a while, even through all of the uncertainty. Then the sheer elation following the election slowly gave way to widespread anxiety and localized violence. Nomask militias were making their presence known on the streets, especially in large cities - even as the majority of us sought refuge from the coronavirus in our homes. But the real worries came from the power struggle in Washington, DC and its backdrop of a worldwide pandemic that had erupted in late fall.
I glanced at Carol. "Same recap - nothing new so far."
When the death toll from the pandemic reached one million Americans early in January, the economy ground to a standstill. Planes were grounded, buses were parked, and our cars stayed in our garages. It happened suddenly, as though 2020's worst days returned on a mission of vengeance. Some called it the fourth wave. Epidemiologists labeled it "Covid-19b."
There was no relief. The Christmas Eve assassination of Senator-elect Ossoff threw the upper house into disarray, especially after the Georgia General Assembly elevated David Perdue - Ossoff's Republican opponent - to the seat in an emergency appointment. McConnell maintained an iron grip on the Senate, and blocked all legislation that might have provided relief.
After the election, the President had called for vigilance and claimed widespread election fraud. He'd gone silent - uncharacteristically silent - about whether he would ultimately concede defeat. But he and his allies had been busy. Nomask militias had joined forces with the Q Militants, Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, Boogaloo Bois, and others - and they all were finely attuned to their master's voice.
Everything changed on January 19. Preparations were under way for the inauguration of President Biden, who had won the popular vote by nearly eleven million votes. He had carried the Electoral College by a narrow margin despite the efforts of a few state legislatures to replace enough electors to maintain GOP control.
I knew the sequence of the news coverage. "They're gonna show the mall again."
Given the hair-trigger tensions of the time, the Capital Mall was under the greatest possible security. Even so, a black Suburban with a payload of C-4 was detonated within 300 yards of the capitol steps. Only fourteen people lost their lives - a number dwarfed by recent deaths from the pandemic - but it was the property damage that prompted the regime to act. The explosion blew out windows from Arlington to Trinidad, and the nation's monuments were profoundly defiled. This was an outrage - a slap in the face of American pride.
US Army units from Fort McNair were first on the scene within minutes and in force, under the command of General Robert Sullivan. Just one week earlier, Sullivan had been elevated to command Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region & US Army Military District of Washington, immediately after the disappearance of General Omar Jones. M1A2 Abrams tanks were deployed around the President's mansion - facing outward. Soldiers were joined by ranks of capitol police, Homeland Security officers, Border Patrol agents, and dozens of private security and militia personnel who happened to be on hand and heavily armed.
"Here we go, it's his last speech. Again." Now I was just needling Carol, knowing how she hated hearing the voice of the man who would be dictator.
The President was indignant. Rather than retreating to the bunker, he bravely addressed the assembled press from the Truman Balcony, assuring the nation that he was in "strong" control of the situation and that he would remain in office until order was restored - a position that was later upheld by the Supreme Court in a unanimous 6-0 decision. He declared ANTIFA to be responsible for the attack and called every loyal American to arms in defense of the republic against its enemies - Black Lives Matter, radical liberals, and Democrats. He declared Congress to be adjourned indefinitely.
I muted the sound on the TV. "Yeah, I can't stand it either." I waited for the scene on the screen to change, then I restored the volume.
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