The Plagues of Democracy -- God Help Us

By Jamie Stiehm

May 26, 2021 5 min read

WASHINGTON — First, the plague shadowed the land. Then came the siege. Now locusts are swarming everywhere from the Capitol to the National Cathedral.

Let us pray. Lord have mercy on us, living in biblical times.

What's next, Exodus?

The coronavirus claimed more than half a million lives. It made us hold on to one another tighter, at a social distance. The Fourth of July never looked so good for a family reunion.

COVID-19 sobered and changed Americans of all ages and kinds. Never in memory have we faced collective loss, suffering that spares nobody.

Few could foresee America brought to its knees by a plague.

Meanwhile, the locusts — or cicadas — are breaking, as we speak, out of the ground into trees and sidewalks all over the East Coast.

By the trillions, they visit us every 17 years. Sure enough, they're crawling and crunching right on time in spring 2021.

Harmless, they say. Of course, our verdant Washington is the epicenter of the entire buzzing locust swarm. Our nerves can't take much more.

I met my first little locust on the House side of the Capitol as I prepared to enter the building. It had telltale red eyes. Yes, red eyes. Not much surprises me anymore.

Soon, they'll sing us to sleep at night.

The House of Representatives chamber is where I was on Jan. 6 for a great seat at the Capitol siege.

Up in the press gallery, overlooking Congress counting the presidential vote, we heard gunshots under us in the Speaker's Lobby. The howl of the mob was not to be forgotten. They didn't even sound human.

One Southern Democrat bellowed at the Republicans: "This is because of you!"

All we in the press and the politicians knew was that the rotunda was breached — which was unthinkable. Steps away.

We heard the terrible sound of glass breaking in the marble halls. Within moments, the mob who stormed the Capitol tried to storm the chamber, where hundreds of us held our breath.

The closest call I ever hope to see.

It wasn't Masada, the Judaean fortress where Israelites died by suicide under siege by Roman soldiers. I've seen that sacred space.

But we were besieged. The danger of an armed mob was real enough, marauding though the sacred sanctum of democracy.

Americans saw just how vulnerable our way of life was, under attack from within. The bloodthirsty mob was incited in plain air by the then-president.

They brutally injured 140 Capitol and Metropolitan police for hours, with makeshift weapons. Some wore helmets and horns. The violence was astounding. The Pentagon was hours late to the game, perhaps on purpose.

Senators escaped in split-second timing before the mob charged into their chamber. They were thousands strong, some former military members.

The rest of us rushed down a secret staircase. We were under lockdown for hours.

Leaders of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence were brave and determined to return to finish the Electoral College count.

That's the best thing to say about the dark day's descent into night.

Yet nearly 150 Republican lawmakers kept up their challenge to state counts, despite the tragedy we just witnessed.

Bad blood got worse.

The count was done at 4 a.m. by the Senate's Ohio Clock. Democracy lived to see another day. Joe Biden was officially the next president.

Lord, why did the siege happen here when it never happened before in American history?

God was mad at us for letting the former president act like an Egyptian pharaoh. Or a Roman emperor.

Yes, that makes sense.

Here is how Exodus records Moses and the locusts:

"And the locusts went up over the land of Egypt ... they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb ... and all the fruits."

Pioneers faced such a plague.

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder describes a cloud of grasshoppers hailing on her prairie family, eating away at their corn, potatoes, beans and Pa's wheat.

"Not a green thing was in sight anywhere."

Hopefully cicadas won't devour our city. We swear to do better as a free people, by God. No floods, OK?

Actually, it's raining pretty hard.

Jamie Stiehm may be reached at JamieStiehm.com. To read her weekly column and find out more about Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit creators.com.

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