On March 14, close to 500 legislators and citizens packed the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord NH and sat through more than three hours of words and music making the case for the N.H. House to send an impeachment investigation resolution to the U.S. Congress. The vote will take place in the state capital on March 16.
Speaking on behalf of representative Betty Hall’s HR 24 was a plethora of informed and passionate advocates; Daniel Ellsberg, John Nichols, Granny D, Phil Burk, Bob Bowman, and Paul Noel Stookey joined Hall and other regional activists in making the case that not only is it not too late to impeach, but that the danger of not impeaching would bode ill for the last months remaining of the Bush administration as well as being a sever disservice to the future of the nation.
Speakers reminded listeners that keeping the constitutional republic that was given to us by the nation’s founders requires an active citizenship. Clearly, today’s “leaders”, in the executive, legislative and judicial branches have fallen down on the job and have turned into craven and unimaginative enablers of a perverted status quo. While we may not yet need an armed citizenry to take action, we certainly need an informed, energized and active one if we are to have any chance to succeed in reclaiming the nation from the corporate/war mongering powers that currently run the show.
Perhaps the most significant nugget to be gleaned from the event was a point made by Ellsberg, as he explained what led him to honor his oath to the Constitution, in violation of the several secrecy agreements that he had signed on to as a working member of a Presidential team, and release the Pentagon papers to the press, which ultimately led to the end of the nightmare of the Vietnam war. He did not come to this decision through a series of high-level meetings, or by sitting at the feet of some “great man” sharing wisdom. No, it was the conscientious action of an insignificant citizen, Randy Kehler, now of Colraine MA, who had decided to publicly refuse to be drafted into that immoral war.
Kehler took that action not because he thought it would change the course of events in the nation, but because it was what he had to do as a good citizen. His most realistic expectation at the time would have been that he would probably be going to jail for his action, where he would sit forgotten until his release. Any sober reckoning should have convinced him that his personal gesture, while necessary for him, would be a cry in the wilderness, a waste of productivity, and a cost to the society that would be paying for his upkeep in jail. What he did not reckon upon was that Ellsberg, who was concurrently undergoing a crisis of conscience about being part of the big lie that was the official government propaganda of the day, would hear his words as he explained why he would go to jail rather than fight an illegal war. But Ellsberg did hear him, and Kehler’s words proved to be the catharsis that Ellsberg needed to realize that it was worth risking jail in order to expose the truth. Not only did the Pentagon Papers start the unraveling of Congressional and public support for the war, but Nixon’s attempts to retaliate against Ellsberg proved to be the very actions that led to his near impeachment and resignation from office.
Today, there are deflated conversations among impeachment advocates, bemoaning that the wind is no longer filling our sails, that the press and public are too fully occupied with elections and gas prices to care about an criminal, immoral war or a shredded Constitution. Many have become dispirited that their vigils, marches or speeches are simply self-absorbed exercises in futility. It would be well for all of us to think about Ellsberg’s example. Just as he found himself in hearing distance of words that changed his life and the course of a nation, there are many in positions of power today, be they legislators, or staffers working in the belly of the beast itself, who are sick of the lies and crimes, and are near their own tipping point, where they might turn the tables and once more give law and justice a chance to remedy some of the symptoms of the deep sickness that inflicts the governance of our nation. Rather than give in to the cynics and skeptics, let us rather continue to search for the words that will reach into the halls of power and change the course of our own futures.