As I begin, it is mid-day on a Thursday. The ex-president of the United States is into the third day of his trial for various alleged misbehaviors earlier this month. My brain is on trial with a question that has faced most columnists throughout journalistic history: I call it the Wottinell Query. Simply stated, it goes this way:
Wottinell will I write about today?
Sometimes the answer appears. Today it's a spinoff of a similar or related question: Now that Donald John Trump has been removed from the White House, how do we keep similar accidents from happening to our country?
My answer: I'm not sure. What is yours? Let me know. I promise a personal reply via email.
A related question: What will Donald Trump do next? Perhaps he will retire to one of his various properties, and remain silent for the rest of his days. Much more likely: after a week of that unlikely behavior, Trump will collapse from a fatal attack of AE: Apoplectic Ego.
Another question: what will Trump's faithful followers do? Possible answer: anything he wants them to do.
I hope I'm wrong. I want to believe that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, will be followed by a massive cooling-off period. during which Americans of all political beliefs will look back and ask ourselves "How could we have allowed this Trump thing to happen?"
The answers are there, waiting. And most of them are not pretty.
But many of them do not have guilt attached to them. They are the product of democracy and the presence of free will in the minds of each of us. In the 200-plus years that the USA has been a nation, we have shown an alarming propensity to listen to, to follow and (God save us) to elect public servant/politicians of all qualities. That mind-staggering freedom of choice will not — and should not — be taken away.
In the decades since I became old enough to vote, I've cast my presidential ballots for a few more Republicans than Democrats. Both parties have been led mostly by solid candidates with established principles. Both parties have also had some bad apples on display from time to time — the names of Nixon, Clinton and McCarthy come to mind.
But I seldom felt unable or unwilling to join in friendly bull sessions with members of any political persuasion. That relaxed, open-mindedness has come to an end with the advent and behavior of Trump. I'm reluctant now to talk freely about politics with anyone whose political inclinations are unknown to me. Especially since the insurrection and storming of the nation's capital by the Jan. 6 mob.
That doesn't mean I believe that everyone in that gang was a worshipful follower of Trump. As I expressed in an earlier column, I wish that a few hundred of their members could be taken aside and carefully interviewed about their motives and beliefs. I suspect their answers would be all over the lot, politics-wise.
But chances that such a calm questioning ever will be held may be slim or non-existent. The Jan. 6 uprising — as well as all four years of the Trump Travesty — may have spelled the end to untold millions of civilized friendships among Americans of disparate political persuasions.
Time will tell, won't it? I hope so.