I am so very aware that momentous events are occurring daily. This past week saw public outcries for changes to be made to gun laws and responses to mass shootings here in the U.S. It saw the continuing fight for dominance and slaughter of non-combatants in Ukraine. There were elections held in the U.S. for positions ranging from representatives to Congress to local school board members.
This week also brought with it numerous graduation speeches from students and guest speakers alike. This rite of passage marked with pomp and circumstance (literally, in some cases), hats being thrown in the air, and shared moments of pride from parents and terror from the graduates, when both realize just what this transition means at this particular moment in time.
Historically, this past week marked 78 years since D-Day, with the beginning of the end of World War II and collapse of the Third Reich. This coordinated sacrifice of young men from around the globe was in response to the systematic destruction of culture and people at the direction of one man who created a cult of superiority based on myth and falsehoods.
I spent this week trying to make sense of what is happening on a large scale as well as on a small scale. Within my own sphere of influence, I worked diligently on projects, made sure the cats were fed and spent time reading and watching TV. I had food to eat, water to drink, shelter and an unquestioned sense of security. When my mind ran to worry, I easily brought it back to the abundance I am privileged to experience.
Yet, through the periscope of the media I consume, I saw just how many of my fellow humanoids do not experience their lives in a similar fashion. Too many are starving. Too many are in fear of their lives. Too many are without work. Too many are without shelter.
I Do Have Hope
What gives me hope is knowing and understanding that these imbalances are being addressed in myriad ways ranging from young people using their graduation gift money to pay for pet food for house-bound elders to José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen. These are examples of character demonstrating that one person can make a difference and more people can make a bigger difference.
What is Character?
“Character” is one of those terms that you understand but can’t quite define. It is not something that you will find on an X-ray or an MRI, but you know it when you see it. It comes in many guises, ranging from strong to mild-mannered. Some of its qualities are taught (right from wrong) and some are modeled (George Washington).
It is impacted by events that “build character”, and is eroded by bad parenting, use of substances, and profligate lifestyles. It is revered or dismissed depending on who is talking about whom and which side of the argument s/he/they are on.
Which brings me to the January 6th hearings that began this past week. It is not lost on me that 50 years ago, almost to the day, a similar solemn undertaking took place to investigate a sitting President who was tampering with the election process. The impact the Watergate Hearings had on me as a citizen were enormous.
I was too young to vote back in 1972, since the voting age was still 21. I was politically active because of my mother’s involvement in the League of Women Voters and because of my opposition to the war in Viet Nam. I held strong beliefs about what was right and wrong and what was required of me as a citizen: to exercise freedom of speech in service of creating a more perfect union.
Coverage of the Watergate hearings was a confluence of multi-media. All three major networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) were represented. Talking heads included journalists of high caliber: Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and David Brinkley. Groundbreaking access to the proceedings was broadcast, in gavel-to-gavel coverage, on PBS by Robert McNeil and Jim Lehrer. Daily coverage was in every national newspaper, with a nod going to the Washington Post’s investigative journalists, Woodward and Bernstein.
For the first time, a majority of Americans had ringside seats to a process that defined our form of democracy. We saw government in action. And it was mesmerizing.
Overthrowing the Government
Watergate was the story of bungling burglars who left a trail of evidence behind in an effort to hide their attempts to influence an election. Watergate was not a witch hunt. While there was undeniable political intrigue, there was also awareness that Democracy had dodged a bullet.
There was an inevitability to it all that culminated in the picture of a disgraced Richard Nixon boarding the helicopter, a crazy grin on his face and both arms raised with his hands making a “V” for victory. The only President to resign from office.
January 6th was an attempt to overthrow our government. It played out in front of us, in real time, and continues to influence the day-to-day actions of many Americans. The January 6th hearings are providing citizens the opportunity to look at the evidence for themselves.
I eagerly watched on Thursday as Committee Chair, Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Co-Chair Liz Cheney (R-MT) began the proceedings. I felt a duty as a citizen to witness the process and be in attendance as the information was shared.
My Role as a Citizen
My role here is not to be a jury member and decide guilt or innocence based on evidence. My role as a citizen is to support and defend the Constitution. I do that by becoming informed, sharing my thoughts and concerns with my elected representatives, and voting.
In her opening statement, Rep. Cheney said,
In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something. Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.
Liz Cheney, R-MT, Opening statement, January 6th Hearings (June 9, 2022)
Liz Cheney is a Woman of Character.
Events are unfolding that are demanding that people of character take a stand. Historic parallels are obvious and point to similar conflicts as seen previously in the 1930s. We know what happened then. We can choose differently. All it takes is character.