“The Final Report of the January 6 Committee” arrived in my mailbox on Jan. 6, 2023, two years to the day after I’d watched the events of Jan. 6 unfold on television. Since then, I’ve followed the news reports and the hearings in search of an answer to one question: could what I’d read and believed, about democracy and American exceptionalism, since childhood, be taken down by a demagogue and a violent mob on a Saturday afternoon? I remembered Hitler and the events in Germany in the 1930s. Surely, it couldn’t happen here, but it did.

American democracy has its critics. Journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken called it “a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” My grandfather called it a “fraud.” I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s, “history rhymes,” and the 620,000 who were killed in the “debate” over “state’s rights” and slavery.

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email editor@plamerican.com.