Thanks for asking me to write an end-of-year commentary. I apologize for missing the deadline (again). The night I should have been writing, Congress impeached our POTUS, and I went to Cinematique with my wife, son and his fiancée. We saw “Jojo Rabbit,” a film about a brainwashed boy set in Nazi Germany at the end of World War II; quite ironic given the events of the day.
Three of four presidential impeachments happened in my lifetime. Maybe that means we’re in the “end of times.” Maybe it means impeachment is underused, that we have too much respect for the person and too little respect for the Constitution. I expect this impeachment will be minimized as partisan, but it is important the rest of the world sees we are not united behind a person. If we are united at all, it is under a piece of paper: the Constitution.
Every president in my lifetime could have been impeached for “abuse of power.” Most probably should have been. Most presidents aren’t impeached because they abuse power in the service of gaining more power for the nation (and themselves). This POTUS abuses power in the service of fame. That’s the real danger. People eventually may acquire enough money in the bank, influence or power, but there is no limit to what people will do for fame.
Like most of us who supported impeachment, I harbor little animosity toward our POTUS, especially during the Christmas season. His relentless search for the spotlight generates compassion. To him, there is no difference between the ballot box and the box office. I can’t decide if he’s more like Jim Carrey’s Grinch or a lonely young Ebenezer Trump, who can never take the place of his deceased older brother in his father’s heart. Maybe if someone gives him a hug—a real hug—he’ll find a way to turn around the remainder of his tenure, or resign and develop affordable housing for a rainbow coalition of families in Brooklyn.
I’m proud of Democrats that voted against impeachment and of Tulsi Gabbard for abstaining. Many GOP friends believe they are rugged individualists, radical rationalists. They have always been post-racial, utilize Spock-like pure logic to solve real-world problems, and are immune to tribal thinking. In areas of disagreement, they believe my left-leaning brain is clearly held hostage by propaganda, emotion and tribal thinking. Exactly zero GOP representatives broke ranks—rugged individualism at work.
My son’s fiancée expressed amazement a GOP representative compared POTUS to Jesus crucified, especially at Christmas. That kind of rhetoric could be viewed as blatant blasphemy; idolatry. Maybe he’s able to see a little Jesus in the eyes of everyone, even our impeached POTUS. I hope as we enter a new decade, Congressman Loudermilk learns to see little Jesuses in border detention facilities, and little Jesuses needing drug rehabilitation and affordable housing, health care and education.
As “Jojo Rabbit” ended, the Fuhrer died, and I wondered whether wiser future generations may view positions like chancellor or president as punishments, not prizes. If you can’t find decent work helping others, you are sentenced to the presidency. An elected temporary president may have been a step up from king back in the colonial era, but it might be too much responsibility and temptation for any one person today. Maybe it’s time to reconsider a fuller implementation of the Iroquois model?
The Iroquois were governed by consensus, a Council of Elders with no great father. The women traditionally held real power. According to Wikipedia, “If any leader failed to comply with the wishes of the women of his tribe and the Great Law of Peace, the mother of his clan could demote him, a process called ‘knocking off the horns.’” (That does sound a little like what House Speaker Pelosi just did.)
The looseness of language and chronically hostile tone of the current administration and impeachment proceedings has inspired me to value words and kindness even more—to value kind words most of all.
I thank you for letting me express my views and encore fans for reading them. As 2020 begins, I intend to do what I can and dance to Bowie at the end of every scene.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,