“Donald Trump knew before the election that the counting of those mail-in ballots in several states would not begin until late in the day, and would not be complete for multiple days. This was expected, reported and widely known. You will also hear testimony that President Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night, and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim that he won.”
“No one should fear going to a nightclub for fear that a terrorist might try to take them down. No one should fear loving who they love. Our children in Texas and Florida should not fear who they are. We should not have to be dealing with 300 laws in states around our country that are attacking our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.”
I could tell just from my parents’ facial expressions this was bad. The gallery of people (mostly older men) in similar-looking attire reeked of authority. For me, all of 9- and 10-years-old, the joy of our first color TV set in this newly-built suburban Dallas home dampened with the drone of voices in that crowd on the screen. Coupled with my parents’ own head-shaking, I got the sense something was very wrong. I had no idea. This was my first exposure to the American political system. They were the Watergate hearings.
This week marks 50 years since the notorious break-in at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, D.C., by a gang of misfits operating under the orders of the president of the United States. Richard Nixon had become so emboldened by his 1968 win that he dared to envision a world where he either had no enemies or enemies that were easily squashed. He had narrowly lost the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy and then lost a 1962 bid for the California governorship. Thus, winning the presidency created an authoritarian desire in him to hold onto power at any cost. He would do anything to ensure he won a second term – which he did, in one of the biggest election landslides in U.S. history.
As recollections of those events abound, the nation is currently encased in more political intrigue. The January 6 hearings have been underway for a week now, and there’s no telling how long they will last.
In some ways, the events of January 6, 2021 are similar to Watergate. Both were set off by presidents who wanted desperately to hold onto power and ended up disgracing themselves. History is still building Donald Trump’s legacy, but at least Nixon legitimately won both of his terms in office.
Trump’s 2016 “win”, on the other hand, was a fluke – a blatant act of fraud in a profession where character often doesn’t really matter. And, like Nixon, he would do anything to ensure he would serve a second term as U.S. president; the leader of a nation that has long held itself as a beacon of true democracy and freedom. When the results of the 2020 presidential election began arriving, it became clear Trump was not the winner. But, as now know, he and his equally maniacal supporters would not accept the results. Trump had stated months earlier that he would only acknowledged the outcome if he won. That was the egoist in him talking. It was also the oligarch in him; a reality TV star who gleefully terminated people in front of cameras, just as he’d surely done during his own professional life.
For decades, many have said we need a businessman in the White House. Well…we got on with Trump – although we’re now aware he’s not as successful as he claimed to be. But, with his extreme wealth, he could afford to be brutally honest – a virtue that appealed to the angry (mostly White) masses; a group that had tired of diversity and inclusion and suddenly wanted to claim the victim mantel in the 21st century.
The businessman model failed with the Trump presidency. In at least one other manner, Nixon resembles Trump. He never truly admitted wrongdoing. Just a few years after he left office, Nixon gave a series of carefully-crafted interviews with journalist David Frost, in which he defended his actions; reiterating that, “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal”.
Trump sees nothing wrong with the events of January 6, 2021. From his pathetic vantage point, he did nothing wrong. Even as the hearings proceed, he still insists he’s a victim of a rigged election system. I’m sure Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would love to have a word with him about rigged elections.
Facing certain impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, Nixon resigned the presidency in August of 1974 – the first and (to date) only American president ever to achieve that ignominious feat. After an impassioned speech to his staff, he boarded the Marine 1 helicopter and left the White House grounds. There was no gunfire; no bombings; no bloodshed. The Nixons were dragged from their home and strung up in public, like Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. It wasn’t a Castro-type coup we’ve often seen in developing nations.
The events of January 6, 2021 were calamitous – and bloody. Never has the U.S. Capitol been invaded and overrun by angry citizens. That’s something that shouldn’t happen here; again, that’s a developing nation type of fiasco. I’ve seen it on television and read about it in print – an oppressed people storming their national capitol to demand regime change. We’ve seen it occur in Central America and the Philippines. It happened across Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union collapsed.
As the Watergate hearings proceeded throughout 1973 and ’74, more and more information came to light pointing to Nixon as the instigator of the entire mess. The break-in wasn’t – as one individual dubbed it – a “third-rate burglary”. The scandal was larger and deeper than anyone had imagined. When the nefarious arrows finally began pointing back to Nixon, he resigned. His reputation, along with that of many of his henchmen, disintegrated. Their political careers were permanently ruined.
The January 6 hearings are almost theatrical. There is no secret about what happened and who was responsible. We know Trump urged his followers to “take back” the country and undermine the democratic process. We know he demanded election officials in a number of states to find votes that would push him into a win. We know he expected his Vice-President, Mike Pence, not to certify the 2020 election, as was his official duty. And, to ingratiate the true horror of that day into our minds, video surveillance has been presented to the January 6 Committee showing the moment Pence had to be evacuated from the Capitol floor, as the rioters encroached. Nixon demanded some people be silenced. But, as far as we know, he never actually insisted they be murdered.
Everyone who runs for public office has to be somewhat egotistical; at the very least super-confident in themselves and what they have to offer. They put themselves into the public arena and risk everything. But egotism reaches dangerous proportions when the individual comes to believe they are better than everyone else and can do no wrong. It’s nowhere more alarming than in politics where people who win elections are empowered to make decisions that impact the lives of millions.
In looking at Watergate and January 6, it’s amazing how fragile the democratic process remains. It’s stunning how little seems to have changed. It’s even more upsetting to think some people still see nothing wrong with any of it.
Wolfgang, then Docker, at just a few months old in 2002.
When I saw that little ball of gray fur crawling around Tom’s* bare chest, I didn’t know what to think. After he’d lost his older dog just a few days earlier, I honestly didn’t expect him to jump back into pet ownership mode. My friendship with Tom soured by the end of that year, 2002, as his health apparently started to wane. I never knew if he was being honest about that, but we had to part ways in January of 2003. He left me with some $700 in debt. But he also left me with the new puppy, a miniature schnauzer he named Docker. I had grown attached to him since that day in August, when I first saw him. We had agreed I’d take custody of him. I renamed him Wolfgang.
If Wolfgang was still alive, today would be his 20th birthday. He passed away in October of 2016, following a months-long battle with heart trouble. But I maintain my father came out from the Great Beyond and snagged him.
By the end of 2002, Tom had decided he needed to return to his family home in far Northeast Texas to recuperate from whatever ailments were plaguing. He had wanted to put up the puppy for sale, since he knew he couldn’t care for him. I looked at that tiny ball of gray fur one evening, and his large dark brown eyes told me we belonged together. I had started a new job with an engineering company in November 2002 and when I arrived home from work that Friday evening in January 2003, Wolfgang came bouncing out of Tom’s empty bedroom. The dog was truly mine.
And I was concerned, almost frightened. I wasn’t accustomed to having a dog around. I hadn’t had an animal since 1985, when my parents and I put down our sick German shepherd, Josh. We could never bring ourselves to get another dog again. I’d seen so many residents of that apartment complex with small dogs and longed to have one of my own. Now, here – I was an almost accidental pet owner.
We had a rough start. I wasn’t used to dogs anymore. I forgot, for example, that animal babies are like human babies in that they can’t control their bladders or bowels. So I’d get mad at Wolfgang for messing on the floor. And instantly regretted it. He’s just a dog, I’d remind myself.
And that’s what I came to love and appreciate about him – he was a dog. I eventually realized how comforting he could be; simply caressing his downy ears soothed whatever tensions had flooded my body and mind. Any pet owner can empathize with me. When I lived alone, his rambunctious greetings were an end-of-day highlight. After I’d take him out for a brief walk and changed his water, we’d return to the apartment, where I’d strip down to my underwear and roll around on the floor with him. His claw marks on my arms and back could testify to that. But I also understood I was pretty much all he had. I had my small collection of friends and my coworkers, but he spent most of his time alone. Thus, I strongly considered getting another dog. Dogs are pack animals and generally prefer the company of other canines. I’d also come to feel that – in my 40s by this point – I didn’t need to be around other people.
I grew so attached to Wolfgang I considered him my child; an adopted child, but a kid nonetheless. My love and devotion were so intense I seriously considered getting him a social security number to register him as a dependent. I also realized something else: he was the meanest little critter on four legs I’d ever known in my life!
Any concept I had about small dogs being little more than adorable playthings was shattered with Wolfgang. He was almost fearless. The name I’d bestowed upon him truly fit his boisterous personality. At most he weighed about 26 pounds (18 kg), but I know he viewed himself as the same size as that German shepherd. Strangely he had a voice to match. People who heard, but didn’t see him, thought Wolfgang was a monstrous canine. Every vocalization that came out of him was loud – even his yawns! You know you’re loud when someone can hear your yawns in the next room.
By 2007, my father’s health had started to decline. He and my mother were in their late 70s. That fall I made the decision to move back in with them; into this house where I had grown up. It was a difficult time, as I’m such an introvert and was used to living alone. I enjoy my privacy and personal space. But it turned out to be for the best.
Shortly after moving in, I underwent foot surgery. I placed Wolfgang in a room next to my bedroom and behind a dog gate. As attached as he was to me, I knew he’d want to accost me in his usual manner when I returned from the hospital. But hobbling in on crutches would have me too vulnerable. After I got settled into bed, I told my parents to let Wolfgang come into the room. Once he entered he slammed his front paws into the side of the bed, as if trying to ensure I was alright, before turning to my parents and unleashing a vociferous round of barks and growls. His lips were pulled back as far as they could go; something dog owners know is a troubling sign. I’d never seen him so angry. But I knew that was also a gesture of how much he cared about me.
As time progressed, I became more ensconced in this house, and Wolfgang grew into a central figure in the lives of me and my parents. That little dog somehow unified the household. No matter the issue, he always brought things into focus. My father developed a special bond with him; announcing Wolfgang was all the therapy he needed. Indeed, as he’d already done with me, Wolfgang provided a heartening degree of therapeutic consolation.
In early 2016, Wolfgang began experiencing strange – and frightening – seizure-like episodes. He’d struggle to breathe, as he’d squirm on the floor. The vet diagnosed him with a heart murmur and placed him on medication, which stopped the seizures.
Shortly afterwards, my father’s health took a turn for the worst and he was hospitalized in May of that year. He had suffered from gastrointestinal illnesses for his entire adult life and had major abdominal surgery in January 2008. He was relatively fine for a few years, before he started getting sick again.
By Memorial Day weekend 2016, I told his doctors it was time for him to come home. My father had said repeatedly he wanted to die in this house; the home he and my mother had worked so hard to get and keep. And I wanted to honor that wish.
Over the next two weeks, Wolfgang would wander into my parents’ bedroom and start to climb onto the bed on my father’s side. In his weakened state, I saw my father lift his left hand up and stroke Wolfgang’s head. And both would sigh.
On Monday, June 6, 2016, I had sat down to watch the local noon news. Wolfgang lay quietly beside the coffee table. Then the lights flickered, and I felt a strange drop in air pressure. I noticed Wolfgang lift his head and turn to his left. He then rose slowly and sauntered down the hall; he stopped in front of my parents’ closed bedroom door and looked at me. I knew then my father was gone.
Throughout that summer and into the fall of that year, Wolfgang’s behavior changed. He became more subdued and less rambunctious – something I attributed to his age. But I noticed he’d often look off into the distance and occasionally wander into my parents’ empty bedroom. And stare. I’d stare at him, knowing he was seeing my father. In the last couple of years before his death, my father would run his fingers through Wolfgang’s fur and tell him “we’re going to go together.” A secret, I realized – one he was relaying quietly to the dog, yet loud enough for me to hear. In my father’s formal obituary in the “Dallas Morning News”, I mentioned Wolfgang – describing him as a canine “grandson”.
During the last weekend in October 2016, Wolfgang became especially lethargic – and cantankerous. I became annoyed with him, but reminded myself again he was just a dog. Then, by Wednesday morning, I realized I had to take him to the vet; he was critical. As I rushed to the office less than two miles away, I begged him to stay with me; that I loved him more than most anyone else. But it was too late. The doctor couldn’t save him. I leaned over him and whispered again that I loved him and to go with his “granddad”, my father. The vet receptionist stood in the room with us and was already tearing up.
Then she looked up and seemed to sniff the air. “What’s that?”
I smelled it, too. It was the scent of Chaps – my father’s favorite cologne.
As tough as it was dealing with the deaths of my father and Wolfgang within a five month period, I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about either in the following years. My mother’s health continued to worsen, as her descent into dementia intensified. She finally passed away in June of 2020.
In the years since, I’ve realized how lonely it is without a dog. I miss my parents, but I also miss Wolfgang. During some down moments, I often see shadows of a small figure trotting down the hallway and think I need to limit my alcohol intake. But I’ve also seen that tiny character in my dreams; virtual somnambulations I know are messages from my father. Animals, it seems, are conduits for hope and love.
In the 1970s and 80s, Josh provided a unique brand of emotional support for various levels of my anxiety – from childhood into young adulthood. Losing him traumatized me more than I could imagine at the time and ranks as one of the worst events of my life. Losing Wolfgang wasn’t nearly as traumatic, since I knew he was old and suffering health problems that come with age. When he turned 10 in 2012, I told my parents we needed to start preparing ourselves for his death. We hadn’t done the same with Josh.
Stupid animals! They wrap our hearts around them, make us fall in love with them – and then go off and die. But they leave that stamp on our souls that we can never eliminate. But who would?
A generation ago people grieved the loss of pets in solitude. Yet we now view animals with a greater sense of appreciation. Wolfgang’s veterinarian cremated him and returned the ashes to me in a small wooden box that I now keep on the same dresser my parents used. A photo of him hangs beneath a photo of my father and me at a family Christmas gathering in the 1990s. Another photo of him sits between my parents’ urns on the fireplace hearth. A photo of Josh sits off to the left, looking towards all of them.
Phan Thị Kim Phúc probably didn’t think anything of the photographer who snapped a photo of her running stark naked down a dirt road. She was in excruciating pain and – as a child – had no idea what was going on around her. The photographer, Nick Ut, certainly had no idea of what he had captured on film. But that one single image of people scampering down a road in Trang Bang, Vietnam on June 8, 1972, following a napalm attack, captured the true horror of war and the carnage it unleashes upon innocent civilians.
For most Americans in 1972, the Vietnam quagmire had become unbearable. Gone was the glamor and nobility of war as instilled by World War II. Often called the “living room” war, Vietnam brought home the reality of what happens when nations can’t agree on what’s right and decide to fight it out like wild dogs. In some ways, things haven’t changed.
Amazingly Phúc survived the attack and now lives in Canada. She no longer views herself as that “Napalm Girl”. But that she did live through such an event is a true testament to the human spirit – something no chemical can destroy.
A system of ethics that bases moral value on the likelihood of actions producing happiness.
“Eudaemonism” entered English in the 19th century from the Greek “εὐδαιμονία,” meaning happiness, with the suffix “-ism” to indicate a system of belief or practice. “Eudaemonism” is based on the Greek term “eudaemonia,” introduced by Aristotle. Aristotle’s “eudaemonia” described the positive condition of doing and living well. It was not, in fact, a synonym for happiness, but rather it described a greater state of positive existence, which combined wisdom, contemplation, virtue, and other beneficial attributes for personal success.
Example: Through all the anxiety and drama, I detected a true sense of eudaemonism in viewing the opening session of the January 6 Committee hearings.
“In the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high-profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a bulletin released June 8, warning about a potential increase in extremist violence fueled by recent mass shootings, including the massacre in Uvalde last month; an expected Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights; and November’s midterm elections
“I vote to make sure that those parents be held for child abuse. There is no such thing as trans kids, there are only abusive parents who are pushing that evil, evil sexual orientation onto their child’s mind. I want to make sure that those parents have been held accountable. We should start putting some of those parents in jail for abusing their child’s minds. Especially in the school system, any teacher that is teaching that LGBT, transgenderism, furries, the groomers, any sexual orientation communication in the school system should be immediately terminated but [teachers should also] be held for abusing young children.”
Burns, who lied about his military service, declared that – if he’s elected – will reinstate the House Un-American Activities Committee so the government can “start executing people” guilty of treason.
“And of course, above all, they lie about the reason that January 6 happened in the first place. And you know what it is – the entire country watched Joe Biden get what they claimed was 10 million more votes than Barack Obama himself. Joe Biden got 10 million more votes than Barack Obama got. And a lot of those votes arrived after the election. In a lot of places, voting was stopped in the middle of the night. Why? In the biggest states in the country, voter ID was optional. Why is that okay? A lot of the protesters on January 6 were very upset about that, and they should have been. All of us should be. But the January 6 committee ignored all of that completely. Instead, on the basis of zero evidence, no evidence whatsoever, they blame the entire riot on white supremacy.”