Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love you, yes I do – Elton John
While traveling the world, I strive to learn about impactful historical events. Both good and bad. In Budapest Hungary I toured the House of Terror museum, absorbing horrific facts about two very bloody regimes that ruled the region through fear and violence. The House of Terror was opened in 2002 and is a monument to the memory of those held captive, tortured and murdered in that building. The facts are not sugar coated. Torture chambers are open to the public. You can wander among the mechanisms used to string up and systematically electrocute prisoners. Drains line the floor beneath the gallows. Hoses and electrical sources nearby. A hall is lined with tiny closets whose walls are covered in sharp stone shards. Prisoners were packed in like sardines. No food, no water and no toilet breaks. If one because so exhausted they slid down the wall, skin shredded. I stepped inside one of these torture closets and closed the door. I barely had room to lower myself to the floor. My core was chilled. My throat and chest still constrict as I write this, remembering the stark reality. The crime committed by most of the people imprisoned? Resistance to a tyrannical ruling government. These torture chambers continue to exist in many countries around the world. A friend asked me, “why would you go somewhere so grim while on vacation.” The question surprised me. How could I not go? I’ve thought about her question many times in the ensuing years. I think the true answer is that I want to understand the human race. How can some be so kind and generous and others cruel and destructive? How can all these traits be housed in a single soul? What causes a seemingly “normal” human to cross the line in either direction? Our world has repeatedly experienced extreme events of human kindness and of ruthlessness that defy reason. No country is exempt from the threat of tyranny. Including America. In territorial battles, the first immigrants to the land brutally slaughtered natives, and vice versa. Many early American immigrants enslaved humans for profit, simultaneously fighting for freedom from the iron hand of Great Britain. As the House of Horror teaches us, freedom is an amenity to be cherished, not taken for granted.Thirty miles from Philadelphia lies the town of Valley Forge. A popular bicycle path now joins the two cities. Valley Forge was Pennsylvania’s first state park, covering 3,500 acres and hosting 1.2 million visitors annually. In 1777 the British captured Philadelphia as a maneuver to end America’s “rebellion.” In December, the Continental Army retreated to Valley Forge to over-winter. The conditions were brutal. Approximately 2,000 soldiers died from exposure and disease. In spite of this, the desire for freedom prevailed. In June 1778, the Continental army retook Philadelphia. In 1781 the British surrendered and Americans were freed from British control.
In 1782 the United States Seal was adopted. The US constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. It is reputed to be the oldest written constitution in operation in the world. In 1789 George Washington was the first man elected to the office of the US presidency. Donald Trump is the 45th man elected to the office of the US presidency. He was recently impeached by the US Congress for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is only the third time in America’s history that a president has been impeached since ratifying the US Constitution 231 years ago.
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Philadelphia’s Independence Hall stands in homage to the historic actions of leaders with the foresight to fight for and create a democracy. The Constitution they created is a sacred written pact for governance. As President Abraham Lincoln so succinctly stated, we are a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” More than 5 million individuals a year visit Independence Hall, learning about America’s history, the battles fought by immigrants seeking freedom, and the solutions for protection against overreaching governmental control.
In 1791 the first amendment to the US Constitution was adopted, guaranteeing freedom of speech. We had learned lessons from history. Our people were not to be persecuted for speaking their minds, even in opposition to the government. America’s current president may have the right to Twitter out his inner soul to millions of followers. I suppose he is entitled to broadcast offensive eruptions, undignified rants, destructive tirades – mocking, hatred-filled, and openly threatening those who speak out against him. But it is not these ludicrous self-serving public outbursts that resulted in Congress’ decision to impeach.
Article II, Section 4 provides: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Seventeen witnesses testified during the Congressional hearings to determine whether impeachment was justified. Twelve testified publicly during televised hearings. Using a simply google search, one can watch the testimony or read the transcripts. I spent 10 years working as a trial lawyer. Some of my cases were solid and others iffy. I watched the entire testimony of every witness that testified during the Congressional impeachment proceeding hearings. The case against Trump is not iffy. There is ample evidence to conclude he worked in concert with others to solicit the interference of a foreign government in the 2020 United States presidential election solely for personal gain. Power is a hungry beast to feed. Yet it is not time to reach a full verdict. There still must be a legitimate trial. The articles of impeachment state Trump withheld $391 million in congressionally approved military aid in exchange for a commitment from the President of Ukraine to publicly announce his country would investigate two things: (1) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and (2) the discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election. What is odd about the second allegation is that all reputable leading scholars who have conducted investigations, including those by led Mueller, conclude there is zero doubt Russia interfered with the US elections in 2016 and that they are posturing to do so again. America cannot afford to turn the other cheek. We need to get the the bottom of this. A fair trial will help us get there.I listen to political pundits and elected officials crying “foul” over the impeachment processes. I wonder how long it has been since these people have studied civics. Under our Constitution, the United States government consists of three co-equal branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each branch of government is granted clearly enumerated constitutional powers to provide checks and balances against abuses by the other branches. The House has not only the the authority, but the responsibility, to decide whether to issue articles of impeachment when an elected official engages in abuse of power. Impeachment is similar to an indictment. An appointed tribunal listens to evidence and decides whether there is enough to make a charge. A trial still needs to be held to determine whether the charge holds water. Under impeachment it is the US Senate that must hold that trial, The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the tribunal. Co-equal branches of government in action. Checks and balances. Our democracy.I am truly horrified by the the US Senate’s lack of willingness to bother with holding a fair trial. Senator Mitch McConnell has openly avowed he has no intention of being impartial. He has said that, under his watch, the president will be cleared. Period. No trial needed. Senator Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee publicly stated he did not watch the hearings and wasn’t going to bother to read the transcripts. McConnell plans to block any witnesses from testifying at the trial and prevent any documents, even critical new evidence, from being reviewed. Whoa! I’m sure glad I’m not in their courtroom! What are they afraid of?
What is even more shocking is the complete lack of courage by other US Senators, no matter what their political affiliation, to stand up and speak out in favor of a fair trial. Apparently, pure partisan loyalty, or perhaps fear of retribution control these elected officials actions. Even if this means ignoring their constitutional mandate when serving in office. Do the ends justify the means?
It is lemmings to the ocean, only the American citizens are the ones at risk of drowning.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters;
This land was made for you and me. – Woody Guthrie