My emotions are like a roller coaster as I watch the impeachment hearings. I ping-pong between pride and shame at what I’m witnessing.
On the one hand, I am profoundly impressed, even moved, by the courage of heretofore anonymous career professionals who risk so much to stand up for their convictions and tell the truth as they know it. As they face the cameras and the relentless questions by members of the House Intelligence Committee, I marvel at their guts and am heartened to muse about the thousands more they represent—individuals with no partisan ax to grind or any personal agenda except to do what is right.
Witness after witness recounts what they know to be true about the coordinated attempt (where are the chants of “no collusion” from the White House now?!) to extort Ukraine’s leaders. President Trump’s demand is clear: an announcement of “investigations” into the Bidens and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 US Presidential election in exchange for a meeting at the White House and release of congressionally approved military aid for that country’s hot war against Russian invaders. Note that despite the President’s stated concerns about “corruption,” Donald Trump sought only “an announcement” about investigations, clear evidence of his desire for political gain against a perceived opponent in 2020. Actual investigations would turn up no evidence of wrongdoing in these previously discredited conspiracy theories, and do him no good.
It is inspiring to see people—many who are immigrants or children of immigrants—willing to risk so much in defense of truth-telling. This is no small thing. Shortly after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman gave his testimony, the US Army announced preparations to place Vindman and his family under security protections, even moving them to an army base, for their own safety.
In many cases, such displays of courage follow decades—literally—of service to the country in the military and/or diplomatic corps—often in hardship assignments. One of the emotional highlights of the hearings was when Lt. Col. Vindman spoke directly to his father, reassuring him about his decision to immigrate to this country: “Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Such profiles in courage are contrasted with the reprehensible behavior of some committee members who challenge witnesses’ patriotism, partisanship, fidelity to the country. I invite you to reflect on times when you’ve taken a public stand for a cause you deemed correct and were then critiqued, even berated publicly, for your position. Many of us have experienced this, but for most of us, these occasions occur in relatively small, localized settings, with few observers. The witnesses in the impeachment hearings, however, must endure such attacks in full view of the American people, under the glare of television cameras and front-page headlines.
The stress in such situations is unimaginable for most of us. Yet, the calm, confident demeanor displayed by these career professionals is a source of great hope that our country is in capable hands. In a season of Thanksgiving, that the durable American institutions upon which we rely are populated by such distinguished human beings is something for which we can all be grateful.