George Reed, for the “Clean-up on Aisle Four” Blog
I only regret I have but one…
In the early years of conflict and resolution which gave birth to the United States of America, an important stand was made by a person who knew it would cost them everything. That man was Nathan Hale. His relatively short life left a strong mark of meaning we still teach our children about centuries later. Nathan Hale (6 June 1755 – 22 September 1776) was an American soldier and spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City. His mission succeeded but he was captured by the British and executed. At the time of his execution he gave as last words the quote “I only regret I have but one life to lose for my country.”
I tell my sons all the time to not be “dead-right” which means being on the right side of the facts, but arguing so ferociously (over something that does not matter a great deal) that one loses a lot more than the argument—such as a scholarship, a job, respect, etc. I always specifically point out that there are times when the matter of disagreement is indeed a matter of such import that taking the stand is more important than if you win. Nathan Hale knew that and delivered his patriotic service under the constant peril of capture, torture, and death. We are all better for his example.
On 30 January, 2017 another public servant was doing a job she has done with tenacity, clarity, and intention for 30 years. Sally Yates—then acting US Attorney General—refused to defend, or allow her staff to defend, a spurious unlawful, un-American order from the White House. She knew that to defend the White House, the National Security Agency, US Customs, and the Transportation Security Administration as they carried out this spurious, unlawful, un-American order granted credibility to an appalling enterprise and would compromise the dignity, honor, and mission of the US Department of Justice. She had to know that in the hours after issuing her statement that there would be retribution and there was. The items we all heard about include:
- The White House removed all references–and linkages—to the US Judicial Branch from the White House official website. This was an act that was as absurd as it was childish. Whoever directed the action should be sent to bed without dinner and forced to apologize to petulant seven year old’s around the world.
- The President issued the typical—for him—array of angry, childish tweets.
- Two minutes before Sean Spicer would take the podium and deliver a statement that seemed more like an angry rant than an official communication from the White House, Sally Yates received a hand-delivered note abruptly terminating her 30 year career in service to Justice and the Law. Did the president have the right to terminate a member of the team who refused to carry out an order? He did. Did he need to time the notification and publication to basically occur simultaneously? He did not. Was it yet another example of petty, demeaning behavior more worthy of the word tantrum than the phrase “Presidential?” You bet your favorite socks it was.
The statement that was read at the Press Podium is public domain and I include it here.
Mr. Trump may wish to consider how went (for the White House) the days months, and year after Richard Nixon fired his Attorney General for failing to defend an unlawful series of actions. Mr. Nixon fired his AG in 1973 and had to resign in 1974. It always catches up eventually, Mr. President, and the aisles may well line up a lot differently in November of 2018. Your own party will pay the price or your alternative facts, your executive actions, and a staff that seems to be emulating a traumatized, tempestuous toddler. We are sadly getting all too used to this sort of adolescent nonsense and one must wonder if anyone but the Neo-Nazi Steve Bannon is in charge over there on Pennsylvania Avenue.
What I do appreciate about this last year is the number of strong Women who stood up and said “No!” They put their careers on the table and stood in the way between the defenseless and the demon. Hillary Rodham Clinton effectively ended her political career by breaking down glass walls, being defiant in the face of lunacy, and never backed down from Donald Trump. She lost the antiquated Electoral vote—another vent for another day—but she whipped President Trump by having over three million more voices on her side than he did on his. The Putin dollars and hack-apaloosa may have bought him the college, but it did not buy him at least 65 million very strong voices.
Sally Yates stood up and said “No, Mr. President, it is not alright for you to bully lawful visa holders, to shield countries where you do business, to send your pack of thugs to handcuff a 5 year old Yemen refugee who held valid credentials to enter this country.” She lost her job, and her career over it, but Ms. Yates just started—intentionally or not—a new career. Now she is a hero and an example we should all be emulating. We need to pick up that example, wear it like a badge of honor and face our own elected officials with the strong, dignified, peaceful resolve that can send ripples across a nation and a world.
See you at the next protest.