A rioter uses a piece of fencing as a weapon during the attack on the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.
A rioter uses a piece of fencing as a weapon during the attack on the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Benjamin Burgess / K Street Photography

Many people are asking that question. It raises concerns both about the safety of American citizens and restoration of the rule of law. Thus far I’d say president-elect Joe Biden has been playing it right: Saying he’d like to move on, but will support the Justice Department’s findings, wherever they may lead. That’s not popular with the far left, which pretty much wants to see Donald Trump rot in prison. But even the tiniest thorn in left’s side pleases the far right. By walking down the middle, Biden is in a good place at the moment. And that’s coming from a far lefty.

I’d love to see Trump, his eldest children, and a slew of others behind bars for the various crimes they’ve committed in and out of the White House. But I also understand that the smartest and the most humane approach must be to address the subject with unwavering integrity and a strong commitment to the belief that each of us has faith in one another’s shared common interests. We have to be able to trust each other! Reestablishing mutually accepted norms of civilized discourse and rules of debate is a must! Uniting the country is a fine and noble ambition. But Biden’s speechwriters will really have their work cut out for them. And the Democratic party will be wise to have tight, supportive messaging to back him up.

A confession: In the past I’ve had a less tolerant attitude towards Trump supporters and their idiocy. I just can’t abide willful ignorance and bigotry. So I’ve enjoyed with them. I want us to return to a time when assholes have sense enough to hide their stupidity again.

In the mean time, however, as MAGA dead-enders continue to descend upon our nation’s fair capital, I recall all the acts of violence and destruction already instigated and committed by the Proud Boys and others on their last visit and worry for what may be yet to come. This issue will hit the street one week past whatever craziness the Sore-Loser-in-Chief will have whipped up on Capitol Hill on January 6. The raging, rabid, ranting hardcore Trumpies will have been on our streets and our subways. They will have made us simultaneously sick, sad, mad…and afraid. They will have made us feel unsafe in our own city. 

But it’s their city too, by virtue of it being the nation’s capital. I’m not gonna mess with these crazy-ass mothers. I’m not even sure I’d want to try to engage in the most calm and “Christian” of circumstances, largely because I seriously doubt we’d share the same notion of what it means to be a “Christians.” But if there is a way to defuse the hate, anger, and fear, let us go about finding it. 

Unfortunately, a huge swath of voters seriously believes Trump was robbed of a second term. And truth be told, most of these same seriously misguided souls would give Dear Leader another term or two if only they could, Constitution be damned. This is not a small problem.

Among these deluded patriots there will undoubtedly be some who would gleefully inflict harm on anyone who isn’t part of the extreme right. Many people have died already in domestic terror attacks, and even more may die in the future. If something can reasonably be done to mitigate the chances of future attacks, then let it be done. I know I personally have to soften my tone and watch my tongue. All of us who live in reality must hone a message for the right that, as inoffensively as possible without condescension, boils simply down to: “You’ve been lied to. You must come to terms with that perhaps embarrassing reality. But don’t feel bad. Certain interests knew your mindset and just how to manipulate it.” 

There really ought to be a twelve step program. I’m not kidding. Let me explain.

Now is time for the science behind conservative thinking to be brought to the fore. As I mentioned in another piece titled, “Is Conservatism a Birth Defect?”, studies have shown that there are physiological differences between conservative and liberal brain structures. Damage to the prefrontal cortex, whether due to injury, or to extreme religious or other social indoctrination, is responsible for exaggerated fear responses. Republicans and right-wing interest groups have for years now used the right wing media distortion machine —all too often with an assist from the lazy, so-called left wing media — to shamelessly exploit people vulnerable to their message. 

I speak from experience. I was raised in an environment of extremist indoctrination. Though I was fortunate as to have escaped that environment in early adulthood, I can’t say it didn’t have an impact, causing exaggerated fear responses. In flashing moments, right wing talking points still make sense. But all it takes is to calmly think through the argument, look at the actual facts, and identify when lying fear-mongers are just trying to push my buttons.

I hope and believe that at some point in the not-so-distant future, teaching professionals and the psychiatric community alike will denounce extremist indoctrination as a form of child abuse. Teaching a child to close his or her mind to truth serves neither the interests of the child nor the community of which that child is a part! This is common freaking sense! 

Finding a way to communicate  these concepts in a non-threatening manner could go a long way toward helping de-fang the influence of right wing media and extreme evangelical Christianity. If effective messaging can dissuade even one would-be domestic terrorist from acting out because he or she will perceive Trump is being given a fair shake by Biden it will have been more than worth it. But Biden must establish trust and cannot break that trust, with either the left or the right. 

Biden must commit to never even bending the truth, let alone lying. Period! No exceptions. He has to overcompensate for Trump and all others who ever uttered even the whitest of fibs. He can’t knowingly give political ammunition to the right, because they won’t hesitate to use it. Restoring the centrality of truth to human survival will require totally neutering the sad “both sides” arguments and pointing out just how brazenly mendacious the Republican party has been for at least the last decade. 

Accountability also needs to be restored. No one is above the law! Trump needs to do some time, whether in a prison or a mental hospital. If it be prison then let Biden pardon him, perhaps after some brief period. Then leave Trump for New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York State Attorney General Letitia James to deal with. They can then, out of an abundance of compassion, support a recommendation of hospitalization. And there is no shortage of mental health experts who would support such a recommendation. Donald Trump suffers severe antisocial personality disorder and his illness puts us all in danger. Now that he is facing literal eviction from the White House and the possibility of moving into the Big House, he is becoming more and more dangerous with each passing day, like a cornered animal. Some type of incarceration needs to happen sooner rather than later. 

Although much of Trump’s power will be tremendously diminished at noon on January 20, 2021, let’s not assume this sociopath won’t look for ways to cause harm. It’s just what sociopaths do. They hurt other people. It will be important to the safety and well-being of the American public to thoroughly expose Trump as the truly weak-minded, delusional narcissist he so obviously is. 

Does Trump deserve our ire or our pity? Perhaps both, certainly the former and at least a little of the latter. He is who he was raised to be: A self-centered asshole, simple as that. In his own way, he was born disadvantaged, from a psychological and developmental perspective at least.

We on the left are generally committed to taking the high road. The high road here is to prosecute where appropriate, and grant clemency when it’s deserved. Donald John Trump is mentally ill. He needs hospitalization. Let those who are officially diagnosed unwell also be hospitalized or otherwise monitored as well, but the people who have used Trump are not, as far as we know, mentally ill. 

When it comes to Trump’s eldest kids, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and numerous others, let them do hard time. It’ll warn those who need warning without really pissing off as much of his base. The rule of law must be restored, and dealing with Trump and Trump alone will leave us vulnerable to future bad actors. 

We can’t be sure that Donald Trump won’t still wield some kind of crazy cult influence from within a psychiatric hospital. But his image, ranting from within a padded cell, should be so ridiculous by that point that most MAGA people will crawl back under their rocks.