Unlike such previous events filled with hundreds of thousands of people gathering on the National Mall hoping to witness a new national leader take an oath of office to protect our cherished liberties, tens of thousands of armed National Guard troops were assembled to protect the nation’s newly elected highest office resident.

Whether you were amongst those who celebrated President Biden’s inauguration with Champagne or others who mourned the end of Donald Trump’s presidency with a stiff brace of Pepto Bismol, the atmosphere of the setting was nevertheless starkly eerie.

For a country that traditionally prides itself as a beacon of democracy, the transition of power took on the darkly ominous atmosphere of a banana republic scene.

The immediate setting, our national Capitol — was surrounded by multiple layers of 7-foot-high fencing, some topped by concertina razor wire with entrances open only to especially honored guests where Secret Service agents, D.C. Metropolitan Police, Capitol Police, and National Guard troops checked access passes to the ceremonial grounds.

The National Mall was closed, and roadblocks extended about a half-mile away to control all routes connecting west along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House — the traditional route used for inaugural parades.

The Secret Service incorporated the term “Green Zone” into its inauguration security maps, a vast restricted area running from two blocks east of the Capitol to the Potomac River west of the Lincoln Memorial.

Some military veterans compared the appearance of that zone with that of central Baghdad during the early weeks after the Iraq War invasion…one of desolation, where the shock of transition was still raw, and the future was uncertain.

The extraordinary fortress-like precautions were established in response to a hoodlum mob’s reprehensible actions that breached the Capitol two weeks ago, sending lawmakers into hiding and leaving a police officer and an unarmed intruder dead.

Such criminality must, of course, be universally condemned, thwarted, and punished.

Shutting down and militarizing our entire national capital to accomplish this, however, is remarkable. Nothing of the sort happened in response to seven straight months of unchecked summer riots, lootings, more than a billion dollars of property destruction, and mayhem leading to numerous police and citizen deaths and injuries.

After all, it’s difficult to reconcile an inescapable irony that someone so popular to have reportedly received more votes than any presidential candidate in American history would require such unprecedented armed fortress safeguards.

Democratic Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen egregiously suggested that Trump-supporting National Guardsmen deployed for inaugural protection should be vetted to prevent potential assassination attempts comparable to the murders of Egyptian prime minister Anwar Sadat and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by members of their nations’ armies.

Cohen said, “You’ve got to figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative” than the general population, “75% are in the class that would be in the large class of folks who might want to do something.”

While clarifying that he had no evidence that National Guardsmen were plotting to disrupt Biden’s inauguration, Cohen offered a vetting plan just in case, “You draw a circle first, and the first circle is people who voted for Trump and not for Biden, as far as . . . the zone of people who you’d be suspect of.”

“The suspect group is large,” Cohen said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., has proposed that Biden election “conspiracy theorists” be “deprogrammed” through existing government programs established to “deradicalize” brain-washed adherents who exist in a “misinformation bubble.”

“We need to double, triple or quadruple the funding for these programs,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Likening this essential reprogramming to therapy, AOC offered encouragement that while this deprogramming will require repeated conversations, research has shown that “healing is possible.”

Although declared socialist AOC didn’t mention which countries demonstrated those deprogramming research breakthroughs, we can probably guess a few of them.

As for just exactly who needs to be deprogrammed, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson set the urgent matter straight.

During an appearance on MSNBC, Robinson told the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project American History revisionist Nikole Hannah-Jones, “There are millions of Americans, almost all White, almost all Republicans, who somehow need to be deprogrammed.”

“It’s as if they are members of a cult, the Trumpist cult,” Robinson added, “and [they] have to be deprogrammed.”

And it’s not just the more than seventy-four million misinformed Trump-admiring individuals that need therapeutic reprogramming.

CNN’s media critic Oliver Darcy has been demanding that Newsmax TV be deprogrammed out of existence for crimes of “election denialism” by having it “de-platformed” altogether from all cable and satellite stations across the nation.

In a CNN column, Darcy wrote: “After all, it was the very lies that Fox, Newsmax, and OAN spread that helped prime President Trump’s supporters into not believing the truth: That he lost an honest and fair election.”

Contrary to Darcy’s claims, while reporting credible allegations of election irregularities, Newsmax has never confirmed they were true nor denied the final electoral results.

Facebook’s former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, told CNN’s Sunday “Reliable Sources” show host Brian Stelter: “We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences.” Stamos said, “There are people on YouTube that have larger daytime audiences than CNN.”

Notably, CNN was central among the “mainstream media” that led to new and menacing efforts to de-platform a sitting president and even the office of the White House from Twitter.

CNN also remained hypocritically silent about Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google from de-platforming fledgling rival Parler and its subscribers out of the market for open communications.

Yet CNN was never censored nor held accountable for years of legitimizing the now thoroughly debunked phony Steel Dossier underpinning Russian collusion conspiracy claims, leading to a president’s impeachment.

So yes, there is much discernable foreboding symbolism in the disturbing visual optics of this inauguration: images of razor-topped access barriers; legions of armed military and security police; an otherwise desolate space occupied by a few socially distanced Covid-masked elite and specially privileged media mentors.

Those perimeter control boundaries extend far beyond shutdowns of our nation’s legislative Capitol, a “Green Zone,” or a single city.

They are limited only by how far we, the people, allow those who express unauthorized views that challenge those of prevailing authorities to be branded as “dangerous radicals” subject to censorship and deprogramming.

So yes, the lockdown optics and cancellation atmosphere exemplified in this inauguration are indeed dispiriting to many of us.

Even more, they are terrifying.

Image: Reuters