For the last 44 weeks, I have used this space to comment on the news. Much of it has been devoted to ways we cope with Mr. COVID-19.
Last week, as our nation was focused on the humongous task of producing, shipping and shooting a vaccine into the arms of millions of our fellow Americans, another event took center stage, one that has not happened in the history of our republic.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 6, as the Congress counted the electoral college's certified votes, the members were hustled into safe locations as a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol's hallowed halls and ransacked the place.
At least five people lost their lives. Two police officers who defended the Capitol are dead. One was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. A woman attacking the House chamber was shot by a policeman protecting our elected representatives.
Many of us watched the live TV broadcast of this action. Others listened on live radio. The live TV coverage shook the nation as photos of the rioters vandalized the nation's political cathedral.
Some of the vandals sported bizarre costumes. We know this because they posted gleeful photos showing themselves breaking into the Capitol and Congressional offices.
Over the weekend, dozens of these frolicking vandals were visited by friendly local FBI agents who gave them a free ride to the nearest U.S. courthouse.
In the wake of the riot, we listened as politicians and pundits on the right and left pontificated at great length.
Here in Maine, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King condemned the mob as an attack on American democracy.
Collins, a Republican, called it “a dangerous, shameful and outrageous attack on our democracy.”
King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, called it a “violent insurrection” and an “unspeakably sad moment for our nation.”
News accounts tell us that other Trump supporters, some of them armed, paraded at a few state capitals, including Augusta. Prominent newsmen and women filled the columns and editorial pages of the national newspapers with stories of what happened and what should come next.
Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the blogosphere was, as usual, filled with comments ranging from praise to profane.
I have rubbed elbows with politicians for the last 50-plus years and listened to their (mostly boring) public pronouncements. Last week, I watched Republicans and Democrats use words I never thought I would hear in America, words like sedition, treason and insurrection.
Some Democrat congressional leaders are calling for the president's impeachment – again. But at noon Jan. 20, the president moves out of the White House and Joe Biden moves in.
That should take care of the problem, but, and it is a big but, many, including at least one prominent Republican columnist, said the nation remains in grave danger as long as Donald Trump remains in office.
But no one asked me what I thought about the event. Frankly, no one cares what an old retired scribbler thinks in the first place. And I'll bet no one has asked you, either.
So I will.
What is your take on the events that took place in the nation's Capitol on Jan. 6? In a few words, please explain your feelings. What and why do you think it happened? What should happen next?
What do you think about politicians who vowed to block the constitutional process of counting the ballots? Then, at least one of them tried to use these events to raise funds.
Should some of these politicians resign? Should they be punished for their words? What about the First Amendment protection of free speech? The courts say it is almost absolute but makes an exception for someone who yells “Fire” in a crowded theater.
Again, let me know what you think. I will follow up with a column or two on your thoughts. Please sign your name and leave a phone number, as I will try to verify all answers before including them in the column. Please use this email address for your replies, as the poor editor Kevin Burnham has enough on his plate as he tries to put out a newspaper while sitting at his kitchen table.
The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. No matter what happened on Jan. 6, this is America. And we have the right to hold our views and speak our minds. There are no wrong answers or positions. I look forward to hearing from you.
Be safe. Be well.
P.S. Short answers are better than long ones.