Pages from My Journal

Reading Notes: Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy by Congressman Jamie Raskin (2022)

For me, these morning hours on my courtyard, surrounded by summer things — ferns, geraniums, lavender, lemon verbena — are deeply healing. I bring out iced coffee and my prayer book, along with whatever current book I am reading. “For it is in rest and quietness” that we find healing (Isaiah 30:15 paraphrased).

On that terrible day of infamy on Wednesday, January 6 of 2021, I suffered a cerebral incident, not quite a stroke, although I thought it was when I crashed to the floor and my legs wouldn’t cooperate. I fell from deep shock, almost insurmountable, that has taken me over a year to recover from, and then not entirely. Even now, that old anxiety/panic disorder has resurfaced, along with depression. The bad dreams have subsided for the most part. My mobile reflexes continue to improve but only if I work at it. Mostly I’m too tired. I can get about in public by using an excellent little walker that folds flat when not in use; balance is the main issue, especially on uneven ground in my garden.

And now, this treatise on our collective trauma by Jamie Raskin is out a month or so ago. I am reading it carefully, taking notes, to try to understand exactly what happened that day when our beloved country crashed into anarchy, albeit temporary.

“I have learned,” Raskin writes, “that trauma can steal everything from you that is most precious and rip joy right out of your life. But, paradoxically, it can also make you stronger and wider and connect you more deeply to other people than you ever imagined by enabling you to touch their misfortunes and integrate their losses and pain with your own. If a person can grow through unthinkable trauma and loss, perhaps a nation may, too.” [Here I failed to cite the page. Sorry.]

When everything looks hopeless, you are the hope. ~ Marcus Raskin

Usually, when I am feeling hopeless, I write, but now I cannot find anything in the pages of my journal from last year. Maybe I only thought I wrote down what happened to me. I did try to explain to my husband right after IT happened, but my speech became so garbled he couldn’t understand me. I couldn’t even understand myself. Why didn’t he recognize what was happening and call 911? Instead, he remained fixated on the television screen as events in D.C. raged on.

According to the late Madeleine Albright, fascism (with a little ‘f’) is not a fixed ideological system but rather a strategy for taking and holding power. That’s what T. tried to accomplish on January 6. It’s his long-running plan to maintain power. Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1838 Lyseum speech in Springfield, Illinois, stated that “if division and destruction ever came to America, it wouldn’t come from abroad [as we always feared] but from within; . . . [T]he uncontrolled use of mobs for political ends would lead to tyranny and deception over the people of America” (quoted in Raskin, 309).

That’s what happened on January 6. That’s the sort of thing we associate with the so-called Banana Republics and, in an earlier time, in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Catilina’s Roman Republic. Catilina was a Roman Patrician rival of Cicero who conspired again Rome and tried to overthrow the Republic; he was charged with abuse of power while serving as governor (c. 65 and 63 B.C.E.)

I dare say that T is the modern M and C out to ruin America, the country my patriot ancestors founded in the 1600s and nurtured over the centuries. I recall that, on that horrid day, I inwardly and tearfully apologized to them for the way their descendant compatriots desecrated and ruined their legacy. Is this what I am handling down to my grandchildren and their progeny? I pray not. Lord, have mercy.

“The ambitious tyrant must always be feared.” ~ Machiavelli, The Prince

“Fear was the controlling principle in the unhinged GOP of 2021, and no one was feared more than Donald Trump, because of his giant reach in the country and his famously explosive and vindictive temper” (Raskin, 324).

For me, personally, I need to move from the trauma to the role T played in order to begin to understand exactly what happened that day; otherwise, I cannot get beyond the effect of the continuing trauma on my body — yea, my body, not just my mind — when I crashed to the floor from a paralyzing cerebral incident.

“Human beings do not move straight from trauma to closure without first understanding how and why all their basic assumptions about the world were violently wrenched away . . . ” (Raskin, 325).

January 6 was the culmination of a series of T-inspired events of violence and chaos, a pattern, if you will, almost a practice run (cf. Charlottesville and Michigan et al.), via a series of MAGA rallies to condition folks to street violence, a sort of dress rehearsal, according to Raskin.

Why didn’t anyone see that pattern before? Why didn’t I? After all, I’m a student of history. And, not along ago, I read Madeleine Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning, since passed along to my son and his wife. Well, I am seeing it now as it continues to unfold, not behind the scenes, but right before our eyes.

Again, I pray ~ Lord, have mercy.


Celebrating just over fifty years of holy matrimony, I am blessed to be a mother of two and grandmother of seven. Much of my writing speaks to the culture and tradition of the Deep South, where I spent the first thirty-five years of my life before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. As a poet and essayist, I’ve published both online and in print media. I launched this INVITATION TO THE GARDEN blog the summer of 2017 on I look forward to hearing your stories, too!

10 thoughts on “Pages from My Journal”

  1. I’ve heard both books, are very good. I’m sitting here watching the final 1/6 committee hearing and it’s almost incomprehensible. I just don’t understand the appeal of that man to so many people? I remember both my mom and I were shocked the night he was elected, and the next morning, a woman in my yoga class was in tears. Then an American woman (who was married to a Canadian and a friend of the teacher) came in and lectured us about giving him a chance. I quit yoga shortly after – it was not very zen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I tried in the beginning, but I just couldn’t get beyond his past history. I tried praying for him as our “new leader,” but my prayers seemed to fly right back into my face. I’ve tried to forget him, but he remains stuck in my brain. He just won’t go away. I feel the Jan. 6 Committee has accomplished a tremendous job in revealing the truth behind all the scenes. Tonight, I viewed scenes I had missed during the actual event because I was nearly unconscious on the floor in my hall, struggling to make my legs work so that I could get up. In fact, I don’t recall actually getting up. I guess I did eventually because here I am to write about it. I do remember Charlie, my sweet Cocker Spaniel, licking my face!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It was, but I needed to revisit it in order to understand. Much of what was shown in last night’s hearing I had never seen as it happened; I was probably passed on the floor during that time. Well, I’m ready now to move on with my own limited, somewhat secluded life and keep plugging along . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Jo you might like Kate’s blog – she posts short blogs twice a week, sometimes her cats post – she has four cats – her writing is so witty and fun! I read her when I need a laugh. She is retired and posted this week about falling for the first time.


      2. Here I am, Jo, and I thank Joni for connecting us! I was so pleased to see you’d joined me when I explored the links WP provides. I plan to get back to your journal when I can.

        I was deeply affected by this post. January 6th was a calamity for us all, but you had to overcome both your body’s shock and our nation’s simultaneously. I hope for your continued recovery; you are now linked in my mind with my hopes that the January 6th Committee’s efforts–and a reaction to the Supreme Court’s dreadful rulings–will move enough Americans to help protect our fragile democracy in November.

        I feel a kindred spirit. Jamie Raskin is a personal hero, as is Madeleine Albright; I’ve written about him and Unthinkable and about her–and I quoted her conclusion from On Fascism. I have also adopted her personal self-description: “I’m an optimist who worries a lot.”

        Best wishes to you. I look forward to strengthening our connection.


        Liked by 2 people

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