It's far off, and rather like a nightmare now, but as late as January 2021, the United States was being led into an armed insurrection by a spray-tanned senior citizen and reality TV star named Donald Trump
We should not forget the blatant lies he told, the dangerous national divisions he stoked, or the innocent lives that were lost because of them.
His first lie was the most repeated, that the election was stolen. The truth is he inspired record numbers of American citizens to come out and vote for a different and less erratic president.
The second lie he told was that the votes were tampered with in state after state, but the truth is that court case after court case and investigation after investigation showed it had been the most secure presidential vote in the nation's history.
The third lie he told was directed at his most ardent supporters, when he told them they had been cheated of a second Trump term because of state-wide malfeasance in state after state where he comprehensively lost.
I have written for years now that I see increasingly stark parallels between the modern Republican party and Ulster Unionism during the Troubles.
We used to see Trump's kind of take-no-prisoners politics at work in Northern Ireland. We used to watch Ian Paisley inform his supporters they were besieged by unseen enemies with hidden agendas, that foul conspiracies were being hatched to rob them of their land and inheritance, that only he could save them.
Paisley would whip his supporters into a kind of frenzied resolve, then absolve himself of blame when that resolve resulted in attacks and violence. He would build the bonfire and hold the match but he was smart enough to be offstage when the flames finally engulfed it.
None of this strife suddenly ended because Trump lost and his insurrection failed. He may now look like another out-of-shape golf cart bore in a Florida retirement community but the damage he did to the nations standing on the world's stage is not yet healed.
For four years, he showed us how the grown men in his party would cower in fear of a mean tweet, casting off every principle they ever had to curry the old man's wavering favor.
It really does something to you, to your sense of the limitations of democracy, to witness your elected leaders line up to bend and prostrate themselves before a serial con-man as though he were King Herod rather than a lifelong grifter from Queens.
I have not yet fully processed the sight of that endless supply of grown men (it was mostly men) who folded like a line of pancakes in the hope of kind words from their fearless leader that never came.
Because, where did their fearless leader ultimately lead them all? Where authoritarians always do, into armed conflict against their fellow citizens. Trump built the bonfire, held up the match but then stood back as his supporters set Capitol Hill on fire.
It's only months later from a violent breach of the Capitol, but corporations are already sending political donations to members of Congress who voted to overturn the election. These members have faced no accountability for emboldening the insurrection.
With 58 percent of Americans very worried about the rise of extremist, heavily armed militia groups, like the ones that participated in the storming of the Capitol, it would do no harm and some good for Democrats to draw a line in the sand in opposition to that rise.
I don't know about you, but I personally feel that Democrats should be pressuring the GOP relentlessly every day, demanding apologies for the armed insurrection, demanding repentance from Congressional leaders for misleading and inciting their base, demanding national affirmation of one person/one vote, and demanding heartfelt apologies for the tens of thousands of unnecessary Covid deaths the result of their decision to deliberately misinform the nation of the threat that it represented.
It's not time for the Democrats to play nice, it's time to hold the participants accountable for the danger they helped place the nation in.