We, The People…

We live in a dark time. And dark times call for comfort; comfort food, when you can afford it.

So, on Wednesday last week, I took shrimp shells and some uneaten shrimp, some onions, carrots, celery, herbs, clam juice, and water, and made fish stock. Then I made a big ol’ pot of cioppino, with clams and shrimp and oysters and squid and scallops and whitefish. 

While I watched Night 2 of the July debates among Democratic candidates for President, I enjoyed my cioppino with linguini and crusty garlic bread, and probably a few too many glasses of vino rosso. I kidded myself that we are not standing at a precipice of historical import.

But that is exactly where we stand, dear reader. As Peter Buttigieg had put it in his closing statement the night before, speaking directly to Republican members of the US government:

“If you are watching at home, and you are a Republican member of Congress, consider the fact that, when the sun sets on your career, and they are writing your story, of all the good and bad things you did in your life, the thing you will be remembered for is whether, in this moment, with this President, you found the courage to stand up to him or continued to put party over country.”

It felt good to hear Buttigieg challenge Republicans but his challenge really applies to each one of us. One day, when we look back on our lives, we will be defined by the way we behaved in this moment.

For many years now, I have told the story of the time I met Nancy Pelosi at a town hall hosted by Bay Area congressman George Miller shortly after Democrats had regained a majority in the House of Representatives in the 2006 midterm elections. Pelosi had famously said at the time, impeachment of George W. Bush was “off the table,” and in the few moments I had to shake her hand and speak directly to her I said, “Ms. Pelosi, the American people WANT you to impeach the President.” 

She gave me a surprised, nervous little laugh and shot back, “he’s not worth it!” 

I grasped her hand more firmly, pulled her a little closer to me, and reminded her, “the Constitution is worth it.” With that she smiled, said it was a pleasure to meet me, and moved on down the line.

I’ve lately played that scene over in my mind and wondered where we might be today if congress had found the courage to impeach a President for lying the country into two wars that still rage on nearly two decades later; for presiding over the torture of (in many cases) innocent victims of that aggression; and for directing and approving of illegal surveillance and violation of the privacy rights of American citizens.

Looking back is a losing game, however. Far better to view the present with clarity and to choose to do what is right and what is best in this moment.

It looks like Nancy Pelosi hasn’t changed her view on the efficacy of impeachment as a tool for addressing presidential high crimes and misdemeanors; nor have I changed mine as to its value as a constitutional protection for the Republic. And while I believe this moment is absolutely ripe for convening the impeachment process in congress, I see clearly the intransigence and partisan myopia of members of the Republican Party and I wonder if impeachment of the current President might turn out to be a fruitless exercise.

We live in a dark time, indeed. And while impeachment could be comforting, exhilarating even, I look to the courage of the people of Puerto Rico, who just demanded and forced the resignation of a corrupt and ineffective leader. I look to the courage of the people of Moscow, who risk beatings and tear gas and being set upon by dogs to protest the corruption and criminality of their totalitarian government. And I say this moment calls for the American people to find the courage to demand an end to our corrupt and uncaring leadership. 

I keep listening for the sound of marching, charging feet, boy, but all I hear is the chirping of summer crickets.


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