In his essay, American Crisis,Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Over two centuries old, it certainly seems applicable today. The only difficulty would be deciding which crisis is the most trying. Much has been written about COVID, the economic collapse, unemployment, the major political upheaval, and climate change, to name only five. Too much pondering of any one of them can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair. Singling out impeachment seems overly restrictive but it’s worth taking a closer look.
Several things seem to be obvious. That a sizable slice of the population believes that the presidential election was meaningless because of widespread fraud has assumed the proportion of fact rather than fantasy. It is a waste of time, at this point, to trot out arguments in an attempt to refute that. The truth will eventually come to light but more importantly we must deal with the immediate threat that we face. Those who perpetrated the assault on Congress are convinced of the rightness of their cause. Who can deny that their purpose was to negate the certification of the electoral college vote; such action stands as a clear cut violation of the Constitution. Their belief in their action is justified in their minds but truly is an act of sedition.
Endless arguments could be made about how they came to believe that but more important is the result of their action which led to the passage of impeachment against our former president. That is the equivalent of an indictment; it is not a verdict. That will be settled, one way or another, by the Senate.
The superficial reactions are predictable. The facts are obvious, so should be the verdict. The opposite view is that the whole trial is unconstitutional and should be abandoned. The argument can be made that he is already out of office, so why bother. To keep Mr. Trump from running for office is a hollow threat since Section 3 of Amendment XIV allows Congress to reverse that provision by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
The question that troubles me the most is the rush to judgment. As a congressman if I was in support of acquittal I would have to weigh the consequences of negating my oath of office versus the personal result of my vote to convict. Alienating one’s constituency seems the least important. Of greater concern is the very real threat of harm to innocent bystanders. To put families at risk is quite another matter than assuming risk as an individual congressman. If one assumes that such harm is an idle threat, is to deny the obvious events of January 6.
Those who acted with violence to external exhortations must be held accountable. We have heard nothing about four of the fatalities; who were those people and how did they die? Is comfort to their families something we can ignore? Are they to be viewed as martyrs to their beliefs or were they innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The hope is that the trial will proceed as it should and that the dilemma of acquittal versus conviction will allow all of us to move forward toward solution of all the other crises. One wonders what Thomas Paine would decide? One thing seems obvious: Regardless of the outcome of the trial the possibility of further violence seems high, particularly if conviction is the verdict; an unlikely event it seems
We have been through similar crises in our life times. The Civil Rights movement, the reaction to the Vietnam war were times of great conflagration and we are still working through the fulfillment of dreams long promised and yet denied.
In these times that try our souls, all sides should be on the lookout for the better angels of our nature as Lincoln advised in a time even more challenging than today. To do less is to court continuing disaster.
– Hayden Hollingsworth