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.

 

“Young people, remember this day, and make sure you’re registered to vote. It’s your planet and your future.”

Paris_agreement_Dec2015
For one brief, glorious moment, the world seemed to agree to curb carbon emissions. image via https://medium.com

Remember back in December of 2015, when the eyes of the world were fixed on Paris? During that historic month, the UN hosted world leaders who haggled, bargained, and were eventually successful at signing the Paris Climate Agreement, which set ambitious global limits for carbon emissions beginning in 2016 and continuing into the foreseeable future. (see the UNFCCC’s e-handbook for details of the agreement here.) For a bright, beautiful moment, world leaders came together in the spirit of hope that by diligently working to reduce carbon emissions, the world and everything (including us) in it might stand a chance of a sustainable future. High fives all around!

Enter the Trump administration. From the beginning of his presidency, Trump made it clear that doing the right thing and saving the planet from climate heating was the antithesis of their leadership model. And so, bit by bit, they demolished laws, rules, policies and federal agencies in their war on sustainability.

Today, November 4, 2019, President Trump’s office issued a statement officially bowing out of the Paris Climate Agreement. According to The New York Times,

The action, which came on the first day possible under the accord’s complex rules on withdrawal, begins a yearlong countdown to the United States exit and a concerted effort to preserve the Paris Agreement, under which nearly 200 nations have pledged to cut greenhouse emissions and to help poor countries cope with the worst effects of an already warming planet. 

Though American participation in the Paris Agreement will ultimately be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election, supporters of the pact say they have to plan for a future without American cooperation. And diplomats fear that Mr. Trump, who has mocked climate science as a hoax, will begin actively working against global efforts to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas.

Keeping up the pressure for the kinds of economic change necessary to stave off the worse effects of planetary warming will be much harder without the world’s superpower.

Negotiators spent the early months of the Trump presidency debating strategies for salvaging American support for the accord. Mr. Trump proved immovable.

While no other nation has followed Mr. Trump’s lead and left the Paris Agreement — indeed, more countries have joined — few are toughening their emissions-reduction targets. Analysts attributed that to the absence of pressure from the United States and they warned that the Trump administration’s antagonism toward climate action could dampen future ambitions.

The letter to the United Nations on Monday would allow Mr. Trump to officially pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement the day after the presidential election. The United States would still be allowed to attend negotiations and weigh in on proceedings but would be downgraded to observer status.

Analysts cautioned that even if the United States elects a Democrat in 2020, re-entry will not necessarily go smoothly. The Paris Agreement is the second global climate change pact that the United States joined under a Democrat and abandoned under a Republican. George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Jonathan Pershing, who served during the Obama administration as the State Department’s special envoy for climate change, said a Democrat rejoining the Paris Agreement would likely be expected to deliver a specific suite of policies showing how the United States intended to move away from fossil fuels. Even then, he said, other countries would be rightly wary that the pendulum of support for climate action could swing back in another election cycle. The United States will have to live with that lingering mistrust, Mr. Pershing said.

“The United States has been written off in many cases as a partner,” he said. “You just can’t count on them.”

Story by Lisa Friedman, who reports on climate and environmental policy in Washington. A former editor at Climatewire, she has covered nine international climate talks. @LFFriedman

Once more, comments by readers to this news article ran the gamut from sad and frustrated to reactionary. I share some of their comments with you, Dear Readers, in hopes that you’ll take heart in the fact that many, many millions of people here in the United States and around the world support the Paris Climate Agreement, and are vehemently opposed to the actions coming from the current White House administration. I take comfort in this fact, and am glad that many articulate, intelligent and ecologically aware individuals cared enough to write their opinions to the NYTimes.

Young people, remember this day, and make sure you’re registered to vote.  It’s your planet and your future.
11 Replies 782 Recommend

Preening and posturing, the president is taking obvious and obscene delight in unfastening yet another achievement that his predecessor labored to bring into being. President Obama, more responsible and mature than his successor—by any generous measure— enlisted the world’s leading (and following) nations to take heed of the damage to our planet caused by human behavior.
Realizing that our only home is not without a “sell by“ date, its permanence far from guaranteed, the 44th American president, demonstrating genuine international leadership, persuaded the leaders of the world to pool their resources so that generations yet unborn might find a breathable environment with potable water without which life is impossible.
In irresponsible answer, Donald Trump, stomping and screaming, throwing things as well as a tantrum, now takes a chain saw to the figurative (and, perhaps, literal) tree of life. Maybe what the rich really want is to wake up from their dreams and experience an earth that’s inhabited only by themselves. Think they’ll want fossil fuels, then? Believe in a super-heated planet? Or will it all be “Obama’s fault?”
8 Replies 478 Recommend

Anyone who has small children or grandchildren ought to be frightened and furious. Murder is to a parking violation as what he is doing to the environment is to his actions in Ukraine. What he did there is worthy of impeachment, as are a number of his other actions, but his disinformation campaign on the climate crisis and promotion of fossil fuels are of another order entirely. They are the highest of crimes.
6 Replies 416 Recommend

This decision is immoral, unwise, and unnecessarily destructive of our country’s reputation, alliances, and leadership. History will harshly judge Trump, Pence, and Pompeo.
Many millions more people will likely die as this planet’s atmosphere and oceans rapidly warm as a result of our GHG emissions than would have if this country had kept its Paris commitment. The severity and speed of the mass extinction now underway will be increased as a result of this decision. The cultural and economic devastation that will follow as cities are submerged, famine spreads, tropical disease invades new landmasses and regions, and drought becomes commonplace in many areas of the planet could have and would have been lessened with an enduring American commitment to the Paris compact.
The day will come when the names of Donald Trump, Michael Pence, and Michael Pompeo will be remembered only in infamy and disgust.
25 Replies 700 Recommend

When the catastrophic history of the Trump maladministration comes to be written, this decision, withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord and failing to lead on the most pressing issue of our time, may well prove the most damaging act by Trump. Like so much of what Trump does, it is borne of ignorance and arrogance.
He is an unmitigated disgrace.
15 Replies 643 Recommend

Just to read those words, that leaders of other nations feel they just can’t count on the United States anymore, it breaks my heart. I don’t know what Trump thinks “making America great” means, but this isn’t it. The people of the world are already suffering the effects of climate change, as are the American people. I fear it will not matter what history says of the Trump presidency. Our world, our lives, will be devastated in ways no one can imagine. Selfishness, greed rule. The lives of real people do not.
5 Replies  437 Recommend

I am without words. I want to be angry right now, but I’m just sad. For everyone that’s still supportive of Trump and of this policy move in particular, I want you to cement this day in your head. The thought has to stay in your mind through the next 30 years, so when we have to start doing the actual work of moving the populations of entire cities that sit at or near sea level…you’ll remember what side of history you stood on. Those of us young enough to live through the consequences of this action certainly won’t forget. Shame or an apology at that point is going to be pretty meaningless.
4 Replies  426 Recommend

 

XR Rebels across the planet

XR_October_2019
XR Rebels marching through the world’s streets via https://rebellion.earth

Dear Readers, can you feel the excitement in the air? In case you haven’t seen it on the news media (and chances are good you won’t), #ExtinctionRebellion activists are busy rebelling this week. In 60 major cities in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, Mexico, and the United States, people are gathering to shout, dance, sing, glue themselves to heavy objects, do performance art, and whatever else they can think of to tell global governments to STOP INVESTING IN AND SUPPORTING FOSSIL FUEL GIANTS. NOW. Our global house is on fire, and it is a CLIMATE EMERGENCY.

Here is a news segment from Democracy Now! which interviews Dr. Gail Bradbrook, one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion. It’s a great segment to watch, especially if you aren’t familiar with XR’s basic philosophy and three foundational demands. Because climate heating is really happening, and governments can no longer simply pay lip service to the world’s citizens. We are demanding Real. Action. Now.

Here are links to XR’s website, for all the latest news, inspiring videos and amazing photos of what is happening in the streets of our world this week. The People are Awake! Shouting! And Fearless! https://rebellion.earth/2019/10/09/xr-unchained-day-2-of-rebellion/

XR_Rebels_Spain+Oct2019

Get inspired and involved. To change our world, it takes everyone and that means YOU!!