To millions of oblivious Americans, “democracy” is just an abstraction conjured by dead men in powdered wigs, and “fascism” is just something with swastikas on the History Channel.
But as we learned this week – in what was arguably the most powerful congressional testimony since Joseph Welch asked Joe McCarthy “Have you no decency?” – the MAGAts have already goose-stepped into the lives of certain private citizens who have dared to do the grunt work of making our democracy function.
Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, two Atlanta election workers, were targeted personally by Trump because he needed some fake scapegoats for his election loss. Trump has ruined their lives.
Naturally, they’re Black women – because, as we know from Trump, “bad things” supposedly happen in places with lots of Black voters.
What happened to Moss and Freeman in the aftermath of the 2020 election, as recounted at the fourth Jan. 6 committee hearing, was no abstraction. It was fascism with a tragic human dimension. All Americans should take what happened as an early warning of what’s to come for everyday folks if the evil forces currently in play are permitted to run wild.
Here’s the gist, as articulated by Ruby Freeman, known for decades in her community as Lady Ruby:
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American. Not to target one. But he targeted me, ‘Lady Ruby,’ a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen, who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic...
“I don’t introduce myself by name anymore, I get nervous when I bump into someone who in the grocery store who says my name. I’m worried about who’s listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders...I’m always concerned of who’s around me. I’ve lost my name, I’ve lost my reputation, and I’ve lost my sense of security.”
Trump couldn’t abide his loss in Georgia, so he and his goon, Rudy Giuliani, blamed it on (nonexistent) election fraud in Fulton County – greater Atlanta – and said that Moss and Freeman helped orchestrate the (nonexistent) perfidy. Trump called the elderly Freeman “a professional vote scammer and hustler,” and said without a shred of evidence that she and her daughter double-counted votes for Joe Biden. Giuliani also concocted the fantasy that cameras had captured Moss and Freeman passing a thumb drive (“like they were vials of heroin or cocaine”) filled with doctored votes for Biden.
In reality, as Moss said under oath, the thumb drive was a ginger mint.
Giuliani had said: “I mean, it’s obvious to anyone who’s a criminal investigator or prosecutor they are engaged in surreptitious illegal activity. Their places of work, their homes should have been searched for evidence of ballots, for evidence of USB ports for evidence of voter fraud.”
Various Georgia thugs were so inspired by Trump and Giuliani, they stormed the home of Ross’ grandmother in the hopes of making a so-called citizen’s arrest. Freeman was compelled to flee her own home for two months; her daughter had to go into hiding.
Ross recalled “a lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like ‘Be glad its 2020 and not 1920’... This has never happened to me, and my mom is involved. A lot of them were racist, a lot were just hateful.” And, to this day, “I don’t want to go anywhere, I second-guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies for me doing my job – the same thing I’ve been doing forever.”
But Ross no longer works for the Fulton County Department of Registration & Elections. She felt compelled to quit, for the sake of her family’s safety. Other honest election workers in other locales have already done the same. What will happen to our elections if these tragedies become endemic?
It’s laudable that the Jan. 6 committee, and groups like Protect Democracy, are fighting to salvage our imperiled form of government. Moss and Freeman are not abstractions; they’re private citizens who sought to do their best for the country they love.
If the cesspool of lies engulfs us, there will be many more such stories. If fascism infests us on a human scale, it will be too late to resist.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org