I moved back to Huntsville, my childhood home, after living in South Florida for many years. I was excited about coming back home, which I had left almost 30 years before. I was joining a pediatric ICU practice with colleagues that I respected. My father, whom I worshipped, was living in Huntsville and I was looking forward to spending more time with him.
Alice Mcduffee, one of my new medical partners, was concerned about the fact that the weather in Huntsville was going to be very different from the subtropical climate in which I had been living. “Winters are long and intense,” she said, “you just have to get through February.” And over the years, her words have continued to ring true for me. You just have to get through February.
I don’t know why February is such a difficult month—but it is. By February, I’m sick of long, dark nights. The sun rises too late and sets too soon. I’m weary of sweaters and boots and having to put on a hat, gloves, and down parka just to run errands. In the hospital, February was always the time when physicians got into personal arguments—the office pediatricians were unhappy with hospital physicians not doing enough to help them and the hospital physicians were tired of pulling up the slack for private physicians. Nurses were in rebellious moods. The Chief of Staff usually tried to avoid clinical settings because of the barely submerged hostility of most hospital staff. We were all ‘sick and tired’ of winter, I think, and by February it manifested in most of us as smoldering free-ranging resentments.
But I think the February effect is evident in spheres other than just healthcare. It is significant that February seems to be a month of political turmoil culminating in presidential impeachment. Trump was acquitted in his Senate Impeachment trial in February 2020 and 2021. Bill Clinton’s final impeachment verdict was in February 1999. Andrew Johnson was impeached in February 1868. In addition to impeachment, another significant February political event was the internment of Japanese-Americans by President Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942.
The disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia in February 2003 was a particularly searing event for myself and most Huntsvillians. Our hometown was intimately involved in the space exploration effort and this event was a personal tragedy for many of us.
February 2020 found most of us wondering if the novel coronavirus just reported originating in Wuhan, China might manifest as a new SARS epidemic? February 2021–after a year long pandemic struggle—and most of us realize that life as we knew it is gone forever.
I find myself this February watching the Senate impeachment trial of Donald J Trump. In the last four years, this corrupt, morally incorrigible, and incompetent man has done more damage to my country than I thought could be possible from a single individual. But then again, he has been assisted and emboldened by the complicit members of his own party. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19 because of his disinterest and incompetence in leadership, hundreds of children have been traumatized for life because of his utter disregard of human rights. And for the first time in American history, an attempt to overthrow our democracy originated out of his administration. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the complicit GOP collaborated in his attempted coup by refusing to condemn his efforts. I am reminded of the march on Rome by Mussolini’s Blackshirts which failed but nonetheless resulted in Mussolini achieving fascist control of Italy’s government. I am reminded of Hitler’s Beer Hall coup in Bavaria which also failed, but within a decade Hitler was in total control of Germany’s government.
I’ve said this so many times before—history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. Why is this? Probably because human behavior is not novel. We have a limited repertoire of behavior and generations repeat the same mistakes over and over. Are we witnesses to the same events that have happened to other failed democracies over the years? Why do Americans persist in believing that we are exceptional?
The last time Trump was given a free pass by his party was over his attempt to hold taxpayer funded financial aid as a lever on a foreign leader for personal gain. When his party refused to condemn his corruption, he was emboldened enough to begin amassing a paramilitary force and pointing them at government officials that refused to give him the power he demanded. What will he do now? Are we looking at the same second acts that occurred with Hitler and Mussolini?
I have been isolating myself from those that I know empowered Trump. After the events of today, I find them as complicit as the GOP leadership in the events I am very fearful are about to transpire. They are as responsible for the death of Americans and the brutalizing of young children as Trump. They are as responsible as Trump for the lethal cracks in the foundation of our democracy. I cannot abide their presence.
As Edward R. Murrow said about McCarthy, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”
It is time to leave this country.