So, I’ve been watching the impeachment trial in the Senate. There’s been some new footage shown during the House Managers’ presentations, and a lot of that has been shocking.
There’s one that probably isn’t new, though I didn’t see it on January 6th nor on the days following, and I think I’ve seen it three times now in the two days of testimony. It gets me every time.
It’s not one of the violent shots. Those are pretty common and although they still shock, it’s something I kind of expect to see. There are new clips of the violence, including one particular shot from the standpoint of an officer’s body camera. These still shock, but they don’t get me like they did in the moment, back on January 6th. The one that gets me isn’t one of these.
It’s not one of the quieter shots. These are mostly new, shots from security cameras showing the escape of our leaders. Some show moments of heroism, like Officer Goodman turning around Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). We also saw how close members were to the rioters in another silent security camera. We saw Vice President Mike Pence escorted to safety with his family. But it’s not one of these either.
It’s also not one of the shots of the surrounding context. A lot of these I saw at the time too, and by this I mean the shots of the former President saying there were “very fine people on both sides” or that he loved the rioters. It’s not what happened in Michigan after the votes were counted. These still shock. But it’s not one of these either.
No, the shot that gets me is actually pretty prosaic. It’s the sort of thing you’d see a million times if you watched C-SPAN with any frequency, or in clips on political shows. The difference, though, is that usually you don’t hear the voices of people like these.
It’s the shot when Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) has just started speaking. The first time, that is, as people are protesting outside, not when he speaks later after Congress has returned to their joint session. He has just started speaking, and then clearly something is going on off-camera (likely Sen Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) being escorted from the rotunda).
In the shot, he speaks, and then looks up and an aide speaks to him, and it’s picked up by the dais mic. The aide says, “The protesters are inside the building” and there’s just… there’s just this little catch in his voice. You can hear his fear. You can hear that his speaking is anxious, a little higher maybe than he usually speaks, I’d guess.
It gets me every time. I’d go hunt for the moment in the coverage and link it in here but I’m not sure I want to watch it again.
The title on this post is Being an Oklahoman because I’m assuming that aide was one of Sen. Lankford’s aides, and I’m assuming like most national politicians the Senator hires his aides from his home state and they all move here to serve for some period of time. You don’t quite see his face, but I’d guess that he’s young, early 20s, just out of college. Likely the son of a supporter. He probably substantially shares Sen. Lankford’s beliefs.
None of that matters to me in that moment. It just cuts right through to the fear and horror I felt that day and evening. I learned about it after I had finished recording an episode of our podcast, and like many Americans I watched a lot of the footage and reactions over the subsequent days. In that moment I see, I feel exactly what that young aide feels, a sense of being overwhelmed, and anxious, and just enormously surprised that this can have happened. Here. In America, where we like to talk about our exceptionalism.
In this moment, I’m an Oklahoman.
I was somewhat surprised later that day when Sen. Lankford resumed his speech and declined to contest the electoral college vote, though he had planned to. I surely hope to be surprised again by the Senator voting to disbar the former President from federal office. I suspect I won’t be; swaying Republicans who voted against the constitutionality of the trial itself is highly unlikely. Sen. James Lankford and the other Oklahoman in the chamber, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), will almost certainly cast cynical, political, and cowardly votes to acquit as part of a calculation about their base.
That’ll probably be the moment where I’m no longer an Oklahoman.