A Question of Accountability

For over a week near the end of January, after she was identified, Rachel Powell was in hiding, sought after by the FBI.  Profiled by Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker, Powell has eight children, ranging in age from 4 years to mid-twenties; some of the younger ones disappeared from her house when she did. 

Powell made a social media splash as the “bullhorn lady” in her pink knit cap in videos of the Capitol on January 6th.  Accompanying audio recordings allow us to hear her exhorting fellow insurrectionists to break more windows, and then she directs some of the invaders’ movements.  After securing legal representation, Powell turned herself in on February 4th.  She faces an extensive list of charges, including obstruction and depredation of government property.  She has been separated from her husband for three years, and works part-time while homeschooling her children, raising chickens, and keeping a garden.  She has posted several videos protesting pandemic restrictions, particularly singling out the mask mandate as a “liberty issue.”

Ms. Powell paints herself as just another patriot, caught up in the moment of the attack on the Capitol.  She disavows association with any group, and claims no knowledge of the layout of the building.  Her story relates to accountability, writ small.  As a mother of eight, including young ones, her judgment in leaving them to go to Washington to participate in a mass protest (and January 6th wasn’t the first time) is certainly questionable.  Taking an active part in the breaching and entry into the Capitol represents the abandonment of all responsibility to her family.  Taking them into hiding with her shows no regard for their safety.  And yet….she counts herself as among the faction that fervently preaches personal responsibility and respect for law and order.  She is only one among hundreds who abdicated family ties and obligations that day, let alone adherence to democratic principles.  The tale of her radicalization is a common one among right-wing extremists, and now, when it’s much too late, she says that her only regret is the possible repercussions for her children, but she tries to block out those thoughts. 

As the microcosm, so the macrocosm, in this case.  At this writing, the verdict on the Orange One’s impeachment will be announced shortly.  Unless all the pundits are mistaken, the vote will be for acquittal.  Not only will the former President be allowed to skate out of his culpability for the insurrection, none of his Senate enablers will face any consequences, either.  Indeed, the most common argument advanced by those outside the halls of the Senate is that those who vote to let the ex-President off the hook are afraid of their constituents.  The GOP rallying cry is, “Unity!”  Unfortunately, all too many Dems also would like to forget the recent past and “move on,” thereby assuring that the inciter-in-chief pays no price for his many crimes against the nation. 

The call for unity assumes that a reconciliation is possible under the present circumstances.  It assumes, for instance, that there’s a middle ground between wearing masks and rejecting them, between social distancing and the lack thereof, on the individual scale; and between accepting election results and denying them, between believing that Democrats are socialists out to confiscate all guns (possibly while being cannibalistic pedophiles) and believing that Republicans want an autocratic theocracy, on the larger scale.  At least in these examples of basic tenets, obviously, the viewpoints are mutually exclusive.  The same goes for many of the other differences between the 81-million-votes and 74-million-votes segments of the population.  In short, there’s precious little in the way of middle ground, politically.  Neither is there a halfway point when it comes to racism, homophobia, or xenophobia.  There’s no way to go on as a cohesive country when a significant part of the population refuses to acknowledge a change in Presidential administrations.  If one wheel of a car is stuck, the vehicle can’t move forward. 

Is accountability the answer to the question of unity?  Clearly not.  Convicting the former President of incitement would do nothing to intimidate his followers, and certainly wouldn’t meet with their approval.  Conversely, will accountability create more division?  Again, no.  The lines have already been drawn; once a thing is severed in half, it can’t be any more severed.  The either/or proposition is a false one here.  It’s being put forward as a diversion to focusing on the reality that exists in our government today.  The corporately-owned GOP is trying to keep power away from the equally corporately-owned Democrats.  The parties are two sides of the same coin, although the Dems are more subtle with their greed and power plays, and aren’t willing to go to the same lengths their opponents embrace.  In truth, it’s difficult to imagine T***p as a member of the Democratic party; he’s too overt in his mania, sins, and bigotry (the Dems prefer a more civil, gentlemanly persona).  However closely related the two parties are, via nods and winks in the cloakroom, though, the citizens of this country are as divided as it’s possible to be.  Each party applauds that separation as it jockeys for position.

Why push for accountability, then?  It’s simply a matter of what is right.  Rachel Powell is now forced to deal with the U.S. justice system.  And just as with individuals’ personal lives, elected officials’ actions should have consequences.  Such accountability serves as a check on power and irresponsible choices.  As we’ve seen over and over, flouting the law and ignoring duty, with no imposition of penalties, only leads to more of the same.  The Republicans are determined to hold the line and back their guy, no matter what.  In effect, they’re maintaining the monolithic nature of their party and telling the world that, no matter what they do, they can’t be held to account.  Therefore, for no reason other than a push-back against that imperviousness, T***p’s dereliction of duty and unleashing of a violent mob on Congress need to be called out.  Every scrap of evidence needs to be made public and go into the records if there’s any chance of preventing the 2.0 version from trying the same stunt, and possibly succeeding in bypassing election results.  Accountability is the enemy of would-be despots, and is one of the most valuable tools in a representative government. Without it, we will cease to have a republic.

11 thoughts on “A Question of Accountability

  1. “re-public”??? as in, ‘referencing back to the public domain’? when has the US ever been a republic? the hoi-polloi are deluded to assume such a mode of governance has been extended to its citizenry. though americans persist in amusing themselves that oligarchic autocrats defer to them, it is a laughable illusion. indeed, it has been the case since the first constitutional congress met in the late 18th century. w/ few exceptions, the US has been governed by a cabal of befouling, esurient, war-crazed cockroaches for over 200 years. nor are they held accountable for their malfeasance, whether in or out of office. the citizenry is expendable… until they are needed to deterge the pourriture from the cockroaches’ sewers, banks and battlefields.

    in any case, your article is an eloquent and arresting exegesis, denise. i yearn for your sanguinity, but it’s a stretch… or a failure of the imagination!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good stuff, Denise, so much to ponder in this piece. I read a fairly complete account on Miss Powell and her life’s journey to her Capital moment. Fascinating in my mind that so much energy can be invested in the forces of division after living so many years trying to establish unity within a family circle. Washington insiders and elected officials should be appalled that such shameful outcomes have been experienced by constituents who have invested so much energy into changing democracy through these negative displays; all on their watch. They have led people astray and act as if they did not see this angst raging on the arid landscape of lack;which was created through petty partisanship, manufactured because of their handler’s desire. There have been too many officials, appointed and elected, invested in creating a great divide inside the chambers where they are supposed to be working to create a more perfect union. These are surely wasted human experiences. Sometimes I believe the words Jesus was to have labeled Judas with after he was betrayed, somehow apply to modern day politicians. It really would have been better if they were not born.
    Miss Powell got in way over her head and her whole family will be deeply impacted; I wonder if any of the creeps will be around to pick up the pieces.

    “They say that patriotism is the last refuge
    To which a scoundrel clings
    Steal a little and they throw you in jail
    Steal a lot and they make you king”

    From Mr. Dylan’s song
    Sweetheart Like You
    Off the Infidels album…
    It was birthed during his “Christian”” period and it would be an education for everyone to go take a listen to the lyrics that were floating through him at that time. They seem to be speaking about the condition of our countries body; and it is not a good diagnosis. During those days…
    He had a power to his muse and it’s loaded with many faceted gems…

    Isn’t it ironic that someone who claimed to know how to construct the finest of architectural excellence; cobbled together on a national stage, such a house of twigs and straw. A real colossal
    failure on so many levels.

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    1. Agree with your many good points.

      While Ms. Powell was ultimately in over her head, nevertheless, she appears to have relished her role and does not regret it thus far. Whether she will ever adopt a more rational viewpoint is anyone’s guess. I found it particularly offensive that she preferred to block out the effects of her actions on her family: the ultimate abdication of responsibility.

      Re Bob Dylan, I read a profile some years ago wherein he quite baldly stated that he never believed any of the hippie stuff he wrote. Rather, he said, he studied the music market, deduced that such fu-fu songs would sell, and composed accordingly. I admit that that confession shocked me. It could be that he made those statements themselves just to shock, and they weren’t true, but if they were, what a different perspective on his music!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bob’s been famous for detesting the “questioners of the press corps” …
        His press conferences, when he did them, were good live entertainment. Ballad of a Thin Man makes references to an inquiring soul that is very sarcastic. I’ve seen clips and read his testimonies about the muse. He takes no credit for the flow and it seems to him to come from a mysterious undefinable place or presence. We’ll never really know what he actually means when he answers the questions about his early performances; but it is fairly well documented that he was not down with being dressed up as the voice of a generation. He loves to perform and create art and that is evident; based on his prolific never ending tour.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: Bob Dylan’s motivation/attitude. My take on artists and their relationship to their art is that we have to separate the two. Much like no sane person expects an actor or actress to actually be like the role they played in a TV show or movie, or we wouldn’t expect say Stephen King to be like one of the horrible characters in one of his novels, we shouldn’t expect singer/songwriters to necessarily be anything like their work. I even heard recently that the ‘down-home’ Will Rogers who was often skewering the wealthy, actually regularly entertained the wealthy elite in his upscale home, as just one of many numerous examples. I like a lot of Dylan’s songs, but I’ve heard that —- especially in his younger days—- he was a real asshole at times, stealing a friends rare blues records collection, harassing a groupie to the point where she jumped out a 2nd story window, running-down Donovan viciously while they were backstage, etc, etc. We have to judge their art by what it evokes in us, without much regard to what they may or may-not have had in mind when producing it, which is often the case anyway.

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      3. I hear what you’re saying about artists and their medium. Mr. Zimmerman is no different from myself; there’s plenty that I’m not proud of either. Hopefully in the moments that he stumbled and proved to himself his frailties; he became thankful for the lessons taught by the schoolmaster we call failure. I meditate on the presence that points out the times when my behavior was found to be wanting. It is the greatest stone mason and has chiseled away at the harder edges on this multi faceted surface called “me”.
        Bob’s said more than most, and I appreciate that he sometimes refuses to take credit for what he’s written. I believe he’s admitting some aspect of synchronicity in his awareness here. I have found that a whole bunch of what he has said through his music has come from authors he has exposed his eyes too; but that being said…. I enjoy that he deals in the timeless eternal truths more often than not. Because, as you have so aptly reminded me; it’s about what the art evokes in the perceived of it. For myself, I must say that his language has chiseled away and tunnels through me to this day; and I believe that the majority of what’s been sung has raised my vibration to a higher calling and created feelings of empathy towards any perceived “other”.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: Dylan quote – I have that album of Dylan’s and remember that line in it as being notable. Another similar, though even more cynical quote is a by someone named Jean Rostrand who said: “Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god“ which, unfortunately I believe has more truth than-not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was most fascinated by the scoundrel reference… it haunted my thoughts for many a year…
        It seems to me there’s a lot of clinging scoundrels in the nation at present
        that seem unsatisfied as they see their last refuge slipping through their red white and blue gloved fingers…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Really excellent observations, Eddie. I hadn’t known those details about Dylan. I only saw him perform live once, at a small indoor venue about 30 years ago, and he kept his back turned to the audience for much of the time. I heard that he got stage fright. Another division between an artist and his work.

    I understand that Hemingway could be pretty obnoxious in person, but maybe in that case, not so different from some of his characters!

    Like

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