My first experience with an impeachment was what everyone of my generation and older remembers—the Watergate Hearings convened in the Capitol and starring such representatives as Sam Erving and Barbara Jordan. I remember wanting Nixon to pay for his crimes and they were not the crimes he was being investigated for. Nixon planned and executed a corrupt war and he, in my opinion, was responsible for the deaths of millions of people and for disabling even more. I remember sitting in front of the television and watching him leave the White House for the last time and feeling some sympathy for the guy who most likely left office as unrepentant as a person can be. Yet it was painful to watch him try to act as if he was going to be fine and the rest of us hadn’t a clue what we were doing.
The second time impeachment hit the airwaves, I didn’t own a television. At that time, I was dependent on the radio for all my news. I also rode in cabs a lot then and the cab drivers listened closely to the events and were vociferous in their comments. As we now enter another summer of possible impeachment, it is interesting to note that both these two previous impeachment scenarios happened during the summer. Clinton, as I thought then, was stupid for what he did and how he tried to parse it, and yet, what he did or did not do with Monica Lewinsky was of far less importance than what he did in other parts of the world with bombs and sanctions. I also felt personally betrayed by him because he had told the LGBT community we had a friend in him and we learned he did not mean that either. But none of that was an impeachable offense.
This summer has opened with Dennis Kucinich’s marathon reading of the 35 articles of impeachment on Monday, June 9, 2008 on the floor of the House of Representatives. I watched as I hope many millions of people did last night as he exhaustively covered in painstaking detail a long list of crimes for which the president, George W. Bush, should be removed from office. With each new article and its supporting data, I felt a sense of the depth of the betrayal this president has committed not just of his oath and of the people of this country, but to the kind of future most of us expected.
My partner, Suzanne, and I had been at dinner earlier that evening and she had said something then that kept haunting me as we watched Dennis Kucinich read. She said, and these are not precisely her words but close, “We never could have expected that this is what we would be living with at our age. As kids, this was not even a thought we could have had.” It hit me so hard when she said that. It hit me hard because when we were kids, we watched the Republicans fighting Communists and the Democrats came across to me as a more thoughtful group of politicians. We grew up thinking that participating in civil rights marches and anti-war demonstrations and reacting to what happened at Kent State in May of 1970 were things that we had to do in order to help make things change.
We wanted change then, too. As younger children we had watched helplessly as the president had been assassinated. We were glued to the television that weekend and as Oswald was being moved, we watched Jack Ruby kill Oswald as it happened, live. That these events could occur before our eyes shocked us but we had no vocabulary to discuss the impact this had on us. No one talked to us about the psychological scars that were forming as we watched the president’s funeral and the swearing in of a new president and then the build up to a war that Kennedy before his murder had begun to oppose.
I do recall listening to Goldwater give his address to the Republican National Convention and I do recall hearing him utter those really awful words about the defense of freedom but I also recall Johnson’s campaign ad with the threat of nuclear annihilation.
This Boomer group grew up with the threat of that mushroom cloud as a constant referent. It too made for some powerful scarring on our collective psyches, which in turn was never discussed or understood.
We watched Nixon leave office under such clouds of ignominy. Most of the events that followed in our lifetimes and that became part of the partisan divide were as unbearable as having to watch him smile as he climbed aboard that helicopter. The taking of the hostages in Iran and the eventual knowledge that Reagan most likely manipulated their release for his own political purposes sat in me like a cancerous lump. The scarring had become a tumor. Who knew what this would mutate into? I was also traumatized by the Senate Judiciary Hearings for the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. In horror I sat with a friend and we watched the awful display of partisan politics as the unbending Anita Hill stood her ground against the slurs and imputations of these men against her, all the while defending this man they barely knew. As these political allegiances were allowed to solidify, they began to reflect the mutations of those tumors growing inside us.
I have highlighted these events because they speak to what we live with today. I agree that it is time for my group of Boomers to be relieved of duty. Not only have we overseen enough, but there is little left of our own imaginations to make the changes that are desperately needed in order to save this country’s democracy. The democracy that remains is so riddled with tumors that it will take a very strong person to cure them.
Yet, it now looks as if Senator Barack Obama also lacks the will to cure our ills. The evidence against him has begun piling up. The first piece of bad news coming from him began last week when he did not have the strength or understanding to oppose those forces in AIPAC that want to see us go to war with Iran and to continue to deny the rights and privileges of human beings owed to the Palestinian people. The United States has been complicit with the Israeli governments that have made the Palestinians slaves to their addiction to constant war.
Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country. More than a rhetorical change, by that I mean, moving from a president for whom English is a tortured language to a president who is eloquent and at ease in the language and to the real change we need in our attitudes towards, to begin with, how we govern for those most in need and infirmed before the worries of the ultra-rich are discussed. I don’t think the world can wait a whole lot longer for that kind of change to happen.
One of the most effective ways for that change to occur is to impeach the president and vice president for the serious crimes they have committed. These men and their accomplices deserve punishment. We need to try them publicly as our Constitution guarantees and we need to do it now. These trials will let the world know that we are determined not just to change but for a better world than we have now.