The Historical Moment that Americans are Ignoring

This week, American impeachment hearings continue into the investigation of President Trump’s questionable dealings with Ukraine’s new president Zelensky. As the investigation committee works to untangle the complex story of what happened, two things are becoming crystal clear—the truth of what occurred is shocking, and there are many Americans who are unable or unwilling to hear, see and take  it within themselves.

On an interview Tuesday night with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein by Anderson Cooper of CNN, Bernstein spoke of the need for the “best obtainable version of the truth” in relation to the impeachment hearings. I ponder this phrase–best obtainable version of the truth. I agree with Mr. Bernstein, truth in our world is never absolute, and open to interpretation. And yet, what is true is attainable by each of us. In fact, American democracy is dependent upon it. Each witness who is sworn in before testifying repeats the oath: I swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. It really cannot be any plainer than that.

I listened to the opening statements by the witnesses last week and today, Tuesday the 19th of November. Their words resonated deeply within my heart and mind as truthful. I truly believe that every one of us has the capacity to recognize what is true, as it contains a certain resonance and energy that is universal and common to being human. That being said, the onus is upon each person to have the willingness to hear and feel the truth within. When a person is unwilling and stubbornly clings to an ideology with their mind closed, they will be unable to discern what is true from what is false. Herein lies our current conundrum.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the impeachment process is the extraordinarily damaging vitriol directed at the witnesses who have testified, coming from Trump’s team and from the president himself through his tweets. Of course, none of it is surprising, since it has been their pattern from the very start of this administration to deflect any notion of blame or wrongdoing and fling it back onto whoever may be handiest or a likely target. But in the case of the brave men and women who have come forward to testify of their own volition, I find it extraordinarily wrong to accuse them of giving false or misleading testimony. In particular, the testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, was poignant. As one eloquent writer wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Times at the end of last week’s hearing,

“This brave and heroic woman has no agenda other than to serve the country she loves. Her clear, straightforward depiction of the abuse and smears she received and the corruption of United States foreign policy and security to serve the political and financial interests of the president and his enablers cannot be ignored or dismissed. Ambassador Yovanovitch deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Instead she is defamed, dismissed and threatened.” NYTimes, November 16, 2019

Another letter stated,
“We Americans had the opportunity last week to hear from three stellar Foreign Service professionals. Their love for this country is unquestionable, and the dignity with which they serve us is admirable. Anyone who has become dispirited by the stark, in-your-face corruption and degradation visited upon us by President Trump and his stable of sycophants would do themselves some good to find and watch videos of the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, my hero, as well as George Kent and Bill Taylor. They remind me that droves of people of good character and integrity still exist within the realms of government. They give me hope. Any American who is turning his or her attention elsewhere is missing an opportunity to see our democracy in action. May it prevail.” NYTimes, November 19, 2019 

The New York Times reported that Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, appeared in front of the House Intelligence Committee on the third day of public impeachment hearings. His testimony carried a similar tone of loyalty and duty to his country, the United States of America. Here is an excerpt from his statement:

“On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call, what I heard was improper, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg. It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.

I want to emphasize to the Committee that when I reported my concerns — on July 10, relating to Ambassador Sondland, and on July 25, relating to the President — I did so out of a sense of duty. I privately reported my concerns, in official channels, to the proper authorities in the chain of command. My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country. I never thought I would be sitting here testifying in front of this committee and the American public, about my actions. When I reported my concerns, my only thought was to act properly and to carry out duty.

I want to take a moment to recognize the courage of my colleagues who have appeared and are scheduled to appear before this Committee. I want to state that the vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible. It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks.

The uniform I wear today is that of the United States Army. The members of our all- volunteer force are made up of a patchwork of people from all ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds who come together under a common oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. We do not serve any particular political party, we serve the nation. I am humbled to come before you today as one of many who serve in the most distinguished and able military in the world. The Army is the only profession I have ever known.”

Dear Readers, hearing these, and the other state department officials’ words during these past couple of weeks has brought all the months of the Mueller investigation and impeachment proceedings into clearer focus. I struggle to find strong enough words to describe just how disheartening and simply tragic the state of our country is now. I mean, America is in a state of crisis that is difficult to overstate. We are at the cliff’s edge, right now. For those of us who are keenly interested and listening to the impeachment hearings, we understand the gravity of our situation. This country is facing the very real possibility that the president may be found guilty of high crimes, for which our constitution mandates he be removed from office. If ever there was a moment for Americans to be paying attention, Now is that moment.

 

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