We got inoculated last week.

Or, I think we did.

I hope we did.

I am not thinking about the COVID-19 vaccine that some got recently and others, I hope, will be getting soon.

Nor am I thinking about flu shots or measles.

I bet you remember the smallpox vaccine that many of us got when we were kids and how it worked by giving us a mild case of something like smallpox. That mini-infection, without hurting us too much, caused our bodies to respond with antibodies that protected us from future cases of the main disease.

The discomfort from the vaccine protected us from the major, disabling or fatal disease that we had been inoculated against.

Similarly, last week’s events in Washington may have jolted us into being better prepared for more serious threats to come.

The mini-insurrection, the occupation of the Capitol, and the crudely planned but real attempted coup were disturbing and painful. They caught us off-guard, un-ready and unprepared.

If the take-over had been better planned and orchestrated, or if it had a little more support from a larger group of insurrectionists, it could have prevailed.

Also, the result could have been different if just a few facts had changed.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz might have been Senate majority leader, for instance, and had the clout to persuade his colleagues to postpone the certification of Joe Biden’s election until a new commission could reexamine the election results and propose a different outcome.

Or, if Missouri Senator Josh Hawley had been vice president instead of Mike Pence, he might have refused to certify the electoral votes.

We escaped disaster because this insurrection disease was not quite strong enough to overcome our defenses — as weak as they were.

Nevertheless, we were embarrassed and humiliated by this close call.

Hawley, the first-term senator from Missouri, who argued against certification of the Electoral College results even after the Capitol Building had been trashed, earned scathing criticism from commentators such as David Brooks, who wrote that Hawley “gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand.

Hawley sold his soul to all that is ugly for the sake of his own personal celebrity.”

Brooks’ fellow columnist, Michelle Goldberg, was stunned by the entire episode. “If you saw Wednesday’s scenes in any other country — vandals scaling walls and breaking windows, parading around the legislature with enemy flags and making themselves at home in quickly abandoned governmental offices — it would be obvious enough that some sort of putsch was under way.”

As Gabby Giffords, former Democratic representative from Arizona from 2007 to 2012 and wife of the new Senator Mark Kelly, points out, “There’s no magic recovery in store for us as a nation. We have a long way to go. We are living with the consequences of years of inflammatory speech and false accusations. Through hard work, intention and commitment, our country will overcome the rage of those who stormed the Capitol with symbols of hate. We draw strength from the bravery and determination of our first responders and frontline workers. We will move ahead together. When one person flags, another person steps in — to lift up the weak, and give strength to the doubtful. Together, our resolve and determination will be fuel for years to come.”

By understanding the seriousness of the dangers Brooks and Goldberg point out, with the guidance of leaders like Gabby Giffords in building our resolve, and preparing our peacekeeping forces to meet the threats, we can strengthen our country to face and defeat future insurrections and rebellions.

And if we do, the events of Jan. 6 will have proved to be a successful inoculation.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.”

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D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch."

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