pia

I have been afraid once before, since moving to the USA. That was in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. I was home with my young children, not knowing exactly where the danger would come from. Would it be from an outside tree, that could fall on the room in which I tried to distract my children from fear with a game of Monopoly? Or from some forgotten piece of furniture, a vase, a badminton pole that would fly through the wind and hit us, while we stood at the door, calling the dog inside?

When the storm started, the TV showed a frail weather girl, hanging on to a railing, screaming in vain against the elements. Then we lost electricity, and suddenly the world turned dark and strangely quiet. We woke up the next morning, only to learn that about a hundred human beings would not see the sun rise ever again.

Nine years later we are sitting in the same room, my kids grown up now. Watching another storm on that same TV. People armed to the nines, march towards the U.S. Capitol. That symbolic landmark that my children visited on school trips and regarded as something holy. People climbing its steep walls, waving the stars and stripes, the same flag my children had pledged allegiance to from middle school through high school. My children are now too old to be distracted by a board game. They are as afraid as I am.

We watch in terror when one of the trespassers, an agitated woman about to enter the building, is shot. She falls down to the floor. Is this really happening, my daughter asks, pointing at a man covered in fur, wearing horns as if hoping I would laugh it off and tell her it is just another episode of “Game of Thrones”?

Of course, it isn’t. This is America, the great country that, since I was a child in Holland, I had looked upon with awe, mixed with jealousy. Now they are on a minute-by-minute televised, president-approved spree of self-destruction. When I start to cry, my daughter moves a little closer — but not too close, since she is waiting for her COVID-19 test results.

“Remember Fantasia,” she asks? “When Mickey, the sorcerer’s apprentice, almost drowns because of the success of his own doing?” Likewise, the president has ignited a fire he is unable to stop. We don’t know anymore where the danger will come from next.

I cannot sleep that night, like many people all over the world. The mob storming the Capitol plays through my mind, over and over again, like a bad “Game of Thrones” episode. They have been blind-sided by a man who once looked into a pond and fell in love with himself.

I once knew a beautiful, smart woman who was married to a narcissist. In spite of her better judgement, she believed him when he called her ugly and dumb. When she finally came out of the relationship, she was a changed woman.

America is like that woman. Enthralled by the Narcissist in Chief, who made them believe flagrant lies about who they are as a country. When he is gone, America will be a changed country.

Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. She can be contacted at pdejong@ias.edu.