The essence of statesmanship is not a rigid adherence to the past, but a prudent and probing concern for the future.- Hubert H. Humphrey
There are certain things I have vowed never to do. For example, I will never eat tuna fish. My mother force fed it to me as a child and I immediately vomited. I have been similarly resistant since then to most seafoods, which I understand is my loss, but my senses, particularly of smell have simply overwhelmed my intellect enough to keep my taste buds at bay. There have been some exceptions and truth be told none of these rare moments resulted in the same kind of rude awakening my mother’s apparel experienced that sad day. But none of these events specifically involved tuna. That sick masochist Charlie from Star-Kist rest assured was not going to get any help from me on his sad journey to one of my sandwiches. Gastronomically speaking my social experiences with sea dishes of other varieties have been somewhat bearable but rarely pleasurable . The worst part about this is the discomfort it might cause a well-meaning host lacking knowledge of my situation. It is not in me to complain and generally I try to eat enough to ward off suspicion but too often inevitably the sense of it all becomes too apparent.
Other things that I have previously taken an oath to avoid are much more understandable, at least I think they are. Nevertheless there are some who feel it is their job to convince me otherwise. Take sky diving for example. Adjusting to commercial airline flight took long enough, so why in god’s name would I want to leap from an airplane at anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 feet above terra firma? Swimming with sharks in recent years has captured the imagination of many, but not me. I both saw and read Jaws. There are some who practice this hobby with subsets of the species not previously identified as “man eaters” but there are also those (in cages, thank god) who mingle in the presence of Great Whites. Now, it is important to make the distinction here that most who practice the later are generally scientists who have a legitimate reason for doing what they do, and their studies benefit mankind. They are also generally more knowledgeable about safety than thrill seekers, whose right to do whatever they please as long as they are the only ones who might be harmed (hear that anti-vaxxers) is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence under “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” even if getting a limb severed is what furthers any of the aforementioned goals for a citizen. I’m sure at least one of the 27 amendments to the constitution as well protects the rights of all citizens to dangle themselves as bait for monster sea creatures seeking a quick afternoon snack. I applaud them all with both of my intact hands, I just won’t be joining them. Speaking of sharks…
Never in my life did I think I would write something supportive of anyone named Cheney. And yet today here I sit, fingers clumsily lapping over my laptop doing exactly that. To be clear, (a favored refrain I have lifted from one of my favorite young people) politically, sociologically, philosophically, and almost any other type of “ally” linguistically possible (at least in English) Liz Cheney and I only connect in that we are both humans, both Americans and apparently both believe in something called “the rule of law”. Oh and the importance of free and fair elections to the survival of a representative democracy. At least I think she believes in that although her record on this last point prior to Jan. 6, 2021 remains murky.
It has been said that the first duty of a politician is to get (re)elected. That has always bothered me. While I understand the premise (change cannot be made unless power is attained) the fulfillment of this premise, taken to its natural conclusion opens up a plethora of possibilities for a discarding of ethos as well as plain, good old-fashioned corruption.
In a recent column for The Nation John Nichols makes a compelling argument that democrats and progressives in particular should beware of a tendency in the media to sanctify the representative of the Wyoming at-large seat and daughter of a former stealth like Vice-President for her stand against the majority of her party when it comes to the continued toxic presence of the Mullah of Mar A-Lago on both conservatism and the American political scene. And for the most part I agree with this sentiment. It is certainly true that the Congresswoman is a rigid right-wing Republican, who actually supported the 45th up until the seditious aftermath of the 2020 election. She certainly has engaged in rhetorical attacks on a variety of “others” . She opposed the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. She is a fierce pro-gun advocate and a sworn enemy of a woman’s right to choose. She has been as well a rhetorical flame thrower for some of the most toxic and false narratives fostered by the party going as far as to paint former secretary of State John Kerry as a stooge for Iranian clerics. She has compared Vice President Kamala Harris to Karl Marx, while falsely characterizing her position on late term abortions. Her attacks on Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar after their remarks in support of a resolution denouncing hate including both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were more than disturbing. She is as Mr. Nichols points out a “militarist” of the first order. None of this is arguable, he is 100% correct. And progressives and democrats would do well to remember all of this and keep it in mind moving forward but for this moment it is equally important to remember the exact moment we are in.
Our polarization has never been so vivid, at least in my lifetime. Old as I am, I was not around for the Civil War, but I imagine it was worse then, yet it is not lost on me that we have taken a significant step backwards. The words and actions of people like Liz Cheney and her father have contributed mightily to this condition. All the more important then, if we are ever to make our way back to a semblance of sensible dialogue devoid of ad hominem attacks and “alternative facts” that we at least take a moment to recognize any step, no matter how small, back in the direction of sane discourse and principle.
Liz Cheney is likely to lose her position as the third most powerful member of the Republican side of the aisle in the House. She has voted with the 45th 92.9% of the time, the woman who will be rewarded with her job Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY) only voted with him 77.7% of the time. But significantly she did not vote for his impeachment. Obviously, issues matter little to Florida’s favorite stepson, but ultimate subservience when it counts does.
Why does any of this matter? After all, the thinking might go, the more the Republicans tear themselves apart the better it is for democrats, and in normal times that might be true. But these times are anything but normal. The fact of the matter is the more the former “resident” is allowed to control the party the less the chance for negotiation on just about any issue. If the slide towards complete allegiance to the czar of the bankruptcy continues then there will be little room for the Mitt Romney’s, Susan Collin’s, and Lisa Murkowski’s of the party who in difficult times have managed to hold tightly to moderation keeping alive the hope that when the fever breaks, there will be room to move important legislation along. Mind you, I’m not a big fan of the aforementioned either but they have shown a willingness when the chips are down to follow their conscience. And conscience is one significant area where the acolytes of the “former guy” have shown themselves to be significantly lacking.
We are, as a nation, fighting for our very lives. This is not a rhetorical statement; in this moment it is literal. People are still dying and being hospitalized at alarming rates; the homeless population has exploded and as an eviction moratorium has been overturned by a federal judge that is surely to get worse. The economy seemed to be bouncing back until the latest jobs report, just like this virus which too often at times seems to be shrinking before it explodes somewhere again. India should be an abject lesson on this, but it won’t be if a lack of reasoning is allowed to continue to flourish in the halls of our legislatures. Racism, anti – Semitism and any other kind of negative ism you can think of has risen exponentially over the previous four years.
Among the manufacturers who seem to be thriving are make masks makers and in case you haven’t noticed most of that product is coming in from China . The people who complain the most about not being able to practice their “freedoms” are the ones doing the most damage to the cause of healing by not complying with mask, distancing and vaccine suggestions thereby countering their own stated objectives. All because of the messaging of the “former guy” . The right to vote for millions of American citizens is being severely challenged by new voter suppression laws. Legally certified votes are still being challenged at taxpayer expense in meaningless audits for purely propagandist purposes in a willful action to deprive millions of voters their right to exercise their democracy. This same cult of personality screams about protecting their own right to carry any type of firearm they want, even if they have neither the mental capacity or the training to own and care for one. And they do not distinguish at all in this manner between a hunting rifle or an AR-15. If Sandy Hook taught them nothing then nothing ever will. And don’t even get me started on the climate which might well be the most important thing if we can somehow live to see our way through all this other nonsense, but I’m trying to keep this under 2,000 words.
For every Liz Cheney lost we get one step closer to another Marjorie Taylor Green and one step closer to irretrievable legislative sanity. So yes, work to change the hue of the seats in states like Wyoming but let us be careful that we don’t do it at the cost of the American flag flying over the capitol alongside the stars and bars and the swastika. Liz Cheney is not of my political ilk but in this moment, she deserves our appreciation as an example that political courage must be exercised even if it comes at a great cost, if we are to have any hope of surviving the onslaught of tyranny. When I was a child the announcer on the TV show Superman told us he fought for “truth, justice and the American way”. What the American way exactly is has become very debatable of late, the same may be said about truth and justice. But it is time we stopped waiting for fictional superheroes to rescue us. Liz Cheney may be as distasteful to me as tuna, but we should all support her stand ( if not her politics) for if this slide continues we will all be swimming cage less with the predators.
*Editor’s note- The original posting of this, twice in the last paragraph, referred to Liz Cheney as Lyn Cheney. Lynne Cheney is Liz Cheney’s mother and the wife of the former VP. Admittedly an unthinkable mistake on Mother’s Day. To make matters even worse her name was spelled incorrectly. However, considering the nature of the piece she might be grateful for that. Our apologies to Lynne Cheney. Posting these things at 3 AM is not ideal. Squirrel is furious. Thanks to the observant reader who spotted this error.