Is it not enough outrage or not enough responsibility? Or both?
The answer is both.
Benjamin Franklin pointed us in the right direction on September 17, 1787. The Constitutional Convention had just concluded its work. A citizen called out to Franklin as he was exiting the hall
…”what have you given us Dr. Franklin?” Franklin’s response, “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
What Franklin was saying to his questioner is that the Constitution is the beginning of the American experiment, not the end. If the people who hold power act in such a way that is, far and away, contrary to established American values and our sense of right and wrong it is the duty of the populace to become outraged and take responsibility for what they find to be outrageous and, in so doing, change it or end it.
It all comes down to whether you think it’s your country, as much as anybody else’s, and if you do, whether you’re willing to miss a gym workout or yoga class (or, in my case, a Martini) to actually do something about it.
Let me take my case. In 1972, I leave a great government job at the Treasury Department with a corner office and view of the North Lawn of the White House (you can see my old office on the back of the ten dollar bill). I leave Treasury to help elect George McGovern President. End up doing some fund raising plus various odds and ends and meet a guy named Bob Beckel up in a Congressional Campaign in Connecticut.
Fast forward to October 1973. Watergate is over a year old and Nixon is in big trouble with the Special Prosecutor at the time, Archibald Cox. Nixon fires Special Prosecutor Cox and the top two officials at the Justice Department in what becomes known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Hundreds, maybe thousands, gather out in front of the White House in protest. People hold signs that say “Honk If You Think He’s Guilty.” Noise is deafening.
Next day I get a call from Beckel. He had been demonstrating in front of the White House the night before and wanted to form a Committee to Impeach the President. Could I help? At that time Bob didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out but he was angry. Nixon was screwing with his country and he wanted to do something about it…just like Ben Franklin said he should.
That’s how I got involved in the Impeach Nixon movement. I’ll have to hand it to Beckel. He was the one who was sufficiently outraged to gather with others in front of the White House that fateful Saturday Night. He was outraged and I became outraged and we started acting like it was our country as much as it was anyone else’s.
At least for a while, we turned our outrage into responsibility and a desired result was achieved.
This somewhat abbreviated piece was stimulated by my amazement that Trump has gotten away with as much as he has with a relatively docile response from the so-called “Resistance” and by the following comment I came across on a site called Gizmodo by a gentleman named Deth Ryder:
Every Goddam person in America needs to vote to crush the monster in November or its over.
Stop looking to other people to solve your dictator problem. Or your sarcasm. One of my great aunts was shot dead by some asshole just doing his job cleaning up Jews. The other went to Treblinka. First one had it better. This shit is real, you poor, gentle people, and you are not prepared.
It’s as simple as that.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.