Finally, my personal nightmare of almost two months shows cracks and strips of sunlight on the horizon before me. Much pain remains ahead, but now I believe I have measured and prepared for it. The anguish I see in my friends back on Planet Healthy leaves me faintly amused—something in the spirit of, “I should have such problems!” Yet the dissolution of a society and a civilization is, of course, no smiling matter. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic. I say only that those who grieve should pause to thank God for the full breath and firm steps they can give to grieving.
And so I offer, on this very darkest of days imaginable for many of you, a brief speech of the imaginary Representative James Fairplay. I borrowed the name from a silly little Jules Verne novel which I crawled through half-conscious in my personal twilight. The surname’s Bunyonesque quality appeals to me: for Mr. Fairplay, you must realize from the outset, is a thoroughly fair-minded human being.
My course for the next two years, at least [runs the speech], is fixed. I did not accept the honor of representing my fellow citizens simply to cast the office into the gutter and declare all functions of our government dead… yet neither will my personal honor permit me to participate in a pantomime wherein we reps and senators act as if led by a duly elected president. I refuse to call this pretender my president. I refuse to rise when he enters the room. I will not attend his State of the Union addresses or other public events. I will boycott receptions and celebrations where he promises to be present. He needn’t worry about my rising from a crowd to shout “Liar!” at him, for no crowd spread before him will ever include me. If I should find myself trapped in such an assembly, I will slip away as quickly and quietly as possible. If I’m at a ball game and he makes an appearance to throw out the first pitch, I gather my family together at once, and we all leave.
I will not fight my war for the recovery of what shreds of our republic may yet be salvaged by hurling names across the aisle. My conduct, rather, will be a steady broadcast to the world that we are ruled by a pretender. My forever proclaimed, almost always wordless truth will be that we have no legitimate leader. My testimony of every day, mostly silent, will be that I serve a nation whose highest office has been hijacked and whose Constitution has been brutally raped.
This is where our resistance should start, in my opinion. There are those who would have Ashli Babbitt, the military veteran, wife, and mother who was gunned down by Capital police, become the first fallen hero in a new civil war, and I will not dispute her claim to patriotic heroism. But I also don’t think it does much heavy lifting. I think all of us, rather, need to embrace our inner Fairplay and settle into a grinding habit of telling the truth—or, perhaps even more than that, of standing for the truth. Mr. Trump excelled at chaining a name to an epithet during his mercurial political career: Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, Sleepy Joe. It was effective in a childish way. What if we, as unplayful adults, insistently link our nation’s plunderers to the evidence of their plunder? “I won’t support Mr. Biden’s bills, whose presidency is illegitimate… our nation’s policy with China will remain in free fall until we have a legitimate president… I’m not surprised by the bid to pack the court, since it reflects the bullying anomy which brought this illegitimate regime to power.” Always, every day, speak the horrible truth out in the open.
It goes without saying that such truth-telling must extend to our handling of Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Roberts, Brian Kemp, and other seasoned legions of the Devil’s Brigade who happen to have “R” after their name or a faux-conservative aura about their career. In fact, here I should imagine that speech is distinctly less important than example: than holding aloof, than avoiding bad company, than “moral distancing”. James Fairplay would be a less fitting guide to conduct now than the wizened veteran of many a broken treaty, Chief Nolo (Latin for “I will not”). Picture Chief Nolo arriving in Washington with the Oklahoma delegation. He will not attend dinner parties: he considers idle chatter a great corruptive of sacred mission. He will not show up for cocktail events: he doesn’t drink, and he knows that alcohol loosens promises and retards minds. He will not have his photo taken with Kevin McCarthy’s hand around his shoulder. He will not give interviews to foxy friends on turncoat networks. He will not practice for the annual D/R touch-football game; he will not even laugh at a good joke in the House’s corridors. His presence exudes utter gravity and commands respect. He’s “no fun” and “without interest” to the spiritual debris of Washington because he knows that the people among whom he moves have sold their birthright and betrayed their grandchildren. He never forgets that he has entered Hell to do Heaven’s work.
Let us stop being good colleagues, chatty interviews, and reach-across-the-aisle collaborators: that would be a good start. Let us always, always remember that we are vocal advocates for the plundered, like Mr. Fairplay, and also silent testaments to a present turned loathsome, like Chief Nolo. Tell the truth about all men, every day. Smile and fraternize with no man, on any day. Take yourself seriously: take the war seriously.
Bridges needn’t be blown. Missiles needn’t rain upon choice targets. The way we may begin to win is to bear witness, even silent witness. A black armband signifying mourning would be appropriate throughout 2021, should anyone have the guts to wear it. A Gandhi-like fast as yet another bill dispenses pork would blare almost as loud as Gabriel’s horn. Show resolve. Show character. Speak when the truth is being manhandled, and hurl silence when spoken words can only diminish the outrage.