WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) – Life in 21st century America has been a series of jolting wake up calls.

We thought we were safe from the worst of global terrorism, believing our intelligence agencies were working together to protect us.

Then came 9/11.

By electing a bi-racial president we thought we had put the worst of America’s original sin behind us.

Then came birtherism, the unbridled racism of right-wing media and the casual extermination of George Floyd.

The tech revolution was supposed to free us, empower debate and democracy, bring people together.

Instead, our democratic processes and social fabric have been corrupted and shredded by online manipulation and the frauds who profit from it.

Aren’t we where the world comes to study medicine and science, and as the richest nation on earth, best-suited to handle a deadly pandemic? Not so much.

As our self-delusions have melted away, so has our confidence in the institutions we rely on to sustain civil society.

Organized religion? Too often, a safe haven for pedophiles and con artists.

Academia? Too often, amoral enablers of grotesque political correctness and greed.

The Fourth Estate? Too often, champions of click-bait and timidity over truth.

Law enforcement? See Floyd, George et al, and the virtual sick-out the Capitol cops pulled Wednesday.

This yawning vacuum of confidence and trust was ripe for exploitation by a cunning, shameless grifter. And in walked Donald J. Trump, a failed businessman kept afloat by clueless bankers and promoted by vulgar TV executives, ready and willing to rape and pillage.

Nothing that happened here Wednesday should come as a surprise to anyone. Trump’s love of inciting violence for personal gain dates back at least to 1989 when he bought full-page newspaper ads urging the execution of innocent black men in the Central Park Five case. His campaign rallies featured exhortations to his followers to attack protestors, along with promises to cover their legal bills if they did.

And the vile endgame of election result denial and instigation we’ve been suffering through for the past two months was clearly telegraphed in the first presidential debate, when Trump instructed a white-supremacist hate group to “stand by.”

The nightmarish Trump presidency is nearly over – with almost no one left in the White House to enable him, look for the final retreat to Mar-A-Lago soon. But the giant black hole in the soul of America remains, wider than ever.

Jon Keller