We Americans are a troubled people. Many of us don’t understand what is happening to a once secure, comfortable yet always imperfect existence. We finger point and shrilly accuse those with whom we disagree of everything from stupidity, to visceral hatred of the country and a nearly endless list of not very pretty adjectives and other descriptors. In the process civility and truth are tossed to the wind. Nit-picking “gotcha” moments, half-truths and outright lies fill the air and airways. Above it all, hovers the dark umbrella of blind party loyalties and the high stakes that accrue from public office. It is hard to untangle that web but maybe this will help to clarify what is ravaging our land and clouding our future.
In the 1996 movie, “A Time to Kill”, based upon the novel by John Grisham, a black man was on trial for the killing of two horrendous white men who in unspeakable ways tortured and attempted to murder the ten-year-old daughter of the accused. In his revenge-laden rage he shot the two perpetrators and now was on trial for his life. The defense team led by a young attorney, Jake Bergance, played by Matthew McConaughey, did his best to craft a defense but by any standard, while the action of the accused was understandable, it was nonetheless murder. But the real issue was how would a black man who killed two white men get a fair verdict in the deep south and an all-white jury?
The climactic scene in the movie came with Jake Bergance’s summation, scripted by screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman. I have used that summation as the format for my sense of what is afoot in today’s troubled America. Most of the words in what follows are mine but where appropriate I have chosen some of Mr. Goldsman’s prose as the glue that holds it together. In this trial, you, the readers, are members of the “jury”.
The time is now. The political facts have been laid out for all to see and you are listening to the summation. The decision is in your hands.
Imagine that this is the substance of the attorney’s case:
“There is a political party that has brought us a President who is by any standard, ill-prepared and psychologically ill-suited for the highest office in the land;
A party that supported and applauded a campaign for President that advocated jail by highlighting the “crookedness” of another party’s nominee not only because she allegedly mishandled her email accounts but also because was a woman who had spent a lifetime in public service to the nation;
A party responsible for the nomination and election of a boorish, fact-averse man who most of us would not allow in our homes much less the White House;
A party that nominated and elected a man of questionable character who treats women as objects to be used and paraded around as “elbow candy” and personal trophies;
A party that supports a man who has failed to properly vet his highest advisers and members of his cabinet some of whom have publicly stated that they would like to eliminate the very department they have been chosen to lead;
A party-controlled Congress that enables the President by walking lock-step with every appointment and executive order he has issued without regard to their legality or their impact on the citizens of this nation;
A party that supports a man who tweets using electronic devices which are utterly out-dated and un-secure despite the fact that he was elected in part by charging his opponent of careless use of electronic devices;
A party that stands silently by while their President produces dark tweets in the dead of night often filled with character assassination against anyone who dares to disagree with him or any member of his inner circle;
He has been driven to power by a party that uniformly fails to insist that he disclose his financials to end any charges of conflict of interest and/or the danger of emoluments as a function of his entangling financial relationships around the globe;
A party that trivializes other nations, peoples and values anywhere on the planet;
A party that tolerates undeserved praise of known enemies, a practice that often offends long-time, traditional allies;
He and his party and his party’s apparatus knowingly have failed and continue to fail to deliver on their sacred constitutional obligation stated in their sworn oath of office “…to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States…”;
He and his party routinely accuse others of heinous crimes and activities without a shred of evidence;
A party that accuses all who may hold another opinion as un-American and “haters” of the nation;
A party that invokes baseless fear-mongering as an excuse to discriminate against whole groups of people;
A party that deliberately misinterprets the actual words of the Constitution to rationalize the unabated slaughter of innocent men, women and children, the victims of firearms and the untouchable NRA that together are responsible for far more domestic carnage in one year than the total attributed to ISIS and Al-Qaeda combined since their inception nearly two decades ago;
A party that rails against “big government” but has no problem regulating what women may do with their own medical needs and birth choices;
A party that was elected in part on a promise to end the Affordable Care Act with no plan to replace it or even improve upon its acknowledged shortcomings;
A party that wants to build a 2100-mile-long wall between neighboring nations, the same party whose iconic hero was an earlier President whose most famous and most universally applauded words were, “….tear down this wall!”
A party and leader that does not accept overwhelming scientific evidence of man-made climate change and its impact on the life-sustaining environment of this planet;
A party that blindly marches as one in opposition to any challenges regardless of the merit or value of the new idea which effectively deprives members of opposition parties and independents in their districts or states of any meaningful representation in Congress;
A party that seeks to violate the fundamental precept of separation of church and state as a means to shore up its anti-democracy, non-negotiating, dogma-driven base;
A party that on a daily basis actively seeks to blur fundamental bulwarks of this democracy such as separation of powers, checks and balances and the rule of law;
I want you to picture that party. Can you see them? Can you see them?
Close your eyes for a few moments and think of what you would do …
…if they were Democrats.”