Observations from a witness to 3 impeachments
It’s very likely that by the time this blog post is published Donald Trump will become the 3rd President in the history of the country to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. 30 days from the publication of this post, it’s likely that the U.S. Senate will acquit him.
For many of us, this will the third time in our lifetime that we’ve been witness to dramatic living history.
I was a college student in Washington, DC when Richard Nixon resigned before being impeached. Those were terrible days and I wore my passions and opinions about Nixon on my sleeve as any twenty-year-old might do. That he deserved impeachment was of little doubt, and I remember the inevitable weight and momentum and inertia of a process whose conclusions were forgone.
I was part of the throng standing outside of the White House fence, cheering, watching as Nixon’s helicopter took off from the South Lawn of the White House.
At that time, I worked as an intern for the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, that morphed into the Select Watergate Committee headed by bushy-eyebrowed Senator Sam Ervin from North Carolina. Please note that I do not lay claim to be an author or inspiration for any of the momentum and drive of the committees I served on, but I did have the privilege of making sure pencils were always sharp and water glasses full.
That’s what interns do.
Fast forward twenty-five years. I’m approaching 50. I have two teenage children and a business. We’re in the midst of another impeachment, but now it’s about a President having an affair, getting caught, lying to Congress, and then trying to defend his actions with semantics. This time, instead of taped conversations, we’re discussing the consequences of a semen stain on a blue dress.
I seem to remember my wife and I having several awkward conversations with our daughters.
Fast forward twenty years. My children are grown. I have 2 wonderful grandchildren and a third nearly here. I’ve published my first novel, The King of Kreskin Avenue. I’m on Medicare. I use my Silver Sneakers gym benefit. I’ve got aches and pains where I didn’t think it was possible to get aches and pains. I get up two, sometimes three times a night to pee.
And once again, I am a witness to history. I’m filled with an equal mix of outrage and fear – not just because of Trump’s actions – but because it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that “the great experiment”, the American political ideal as George Washington called it, is dying.
It’s being killed by incompetent, self-absorbed, self-protecting businesses, politicians, academics and ratings addicted infotainers. It’s being murdered by zealots – foreign and domestic – using social media to spew hatred and rancor.
Our experiment is being suffocated by jaw dropping moments like the most powerful man in the world mocking a teenaged environmental activist. Like witnessing a hate filled cadre of politicians using their majority and sacrificing fairness to rush a President to condemnation. Like listening to patterns of lies and “alternative facts” repeated so often that the truth has become indiscernible or nothing more than background noise. Like being stunned and paralyzed by the assassinations of children and Jews and people of color or different sexual persuasions by delusional, self-brainwashed people of low moral character. Like subjugation by well-funded special interests that have become so feared and powerful that they can’t be stopped. Like conspiracy theorists convincing the weak minded that the outrageous lies and morbid fantasies they’ve conjured can be vanquished with their donations and purchases of books, t-shirts, hats, videotapes and paid newsletter subscriptions.
History is cyclical and perhaps the life cycle of the Great Experiment has reached terminus. Perhaps the impetus to save it is not worthwhile. Perhaps people of intellect and a strong moral compass who have the capabilities to save it don’t exist. Perhaps the next cycle – the Failed Experiment – is at the gates with consequences too horrific to contemplate.
Or perhaps it’s up to ordinary folks like us to rage against the dying of the light.