From last Wednesday to Friday, we witnessed a detailed, purposeful and passionate case about the blatant abuse of power by the President of the United States. Even while the arguments were being made, each day brought a new bombshell of information further incriminating this man. The facts are indisputable and yet, in the commentaries around the nation, whether in the newsrooms, barber shops or at the dining room tables, someone always gives voice to the inevitable injustice. The Republicans in the Senate will not admit Trump’s guilt nor vote for his removal.
For those of us who live on the margins in the United States based on our gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, we are used to making some investment in the fight for justice for our own. We lull ourselves into believing that our movements are these beautiful manifestations of the greatness of the United States. Our Constitution protects our freedom to speak out and to assemble peacefully in protest. Yet, the framers did not intend those words for those on the margins. Let’s tell the truth. The Founding Fathers had no plans or expectations for the subsequent movements that history has called forth. That was not in their vision.
But, our warriors fought onward, sometimes in the bloodiest of battles and justice has generally prevailed. . . kind of. There is the subsequent backlash from those who believe that they have had to give something up to which they felt entitled–control over Black bodies, women’s bodies, education, politics, the economy, real estate, the environment and so on. So, the struggle for justice continues.
Now, we are facing a different type of fight for justice. This one strikes at the very soul of our nation. The Constitutional authors may not have given a damn about women or Black people or the poor or whomever else did not own their particular identities, but they knew that our democracy had to be protected from a maniacal, unfit leader who would put our country at risk or abuse our trust as citizens. Surely, this should be a unified fight. The evidence is indisputable.
Back in 2017, Issa Rae, a rising African-American producer, writer and actress, was quoted at the Emmys saying “I’m rooting for everybody black!” She took some criticism for the statement, but there wasn’t a Black person in the land who didn’t understand the spirit of her statement.
In a world in which the scales of justice are not tipped in our favor, Black people look for wins wherever we can get them. I can remember my family’s excitement when we would see a Black family on the Family Feud and how invested we became in their victory. It was real. Or that lone Black contestant who got called down on The Price is Right and the way we would yell prices at the screen in our delusion that he could hear us.
We send collective energy to our Olympic athletes competing in unusual spaces like the pools, ice skating rinks and uneven bars. When the Oscars aren’t so white, we bask in our Viola, Denzel and Lupita’s triumphs. When the wrong of La La Land’s win was righted immediately by artistic karma and the beautiful cast of Moonlight took the stage, the win reverberated in our hearts. And don’t even get me going on what the Obamas meant to us as a community. That was the biggest win of all.
Racial dynamics aside, it’s in our human nature to want fairness in our world. Even when our larger institutions are rigged to service one particular group by disenfranchising others, we hold on to hope that a change is in the wind. We can’t help it. It’s ingrained in us developmentally. I remember this from my years spent teaching third graders, watching these eight and nine-year old children make the delicate transition from concrete to abstract thinking.
It is a profound moment in their growth as they begin to grapple with complicated concepts. I recall an afternoon trip to IKEA with Emmanuel and he had an existential crisis over the concept of forever. Brought to tears, he could not accept that something had no end. He was inconsolable and I was worried that my child was having some kind of nervous breakdown. My KALLAX shelving unit was going to have to wait as we turned around and went back home. I called our former therapist for advice and she reminded me of my own professional history and the years I spent among the vulnerable psyches of eight-year-olds. She reassured me that Emmanuel would be fine, that he was just working through his understanding of things that were new to his mind.
The beauty of this transition is that eight-year olds become deeply tuned into and invested in the ideas of fairness and justice. They get it and become openhearted in their understanding of these issues. They are ripe for teachable moments and often become activists in their own right, taking up causes with unrelenting innocence. One year, a group of my third-graders were mortified by the school’s decision to use glue traps to address a mice problem. The kids took to the hallways with signs and chants, claiming this approach was inhumane and cruel. They had a valid point and the administration was moved into action. It was a very impressive effort by the kids.
There was something in the eyes of Representative Adam Schiff during his closing argument on that second day of testimony that was jarring in its innocence and reminiscent of those eight-year-olds. His words were powerful, but in his eyes we saw a piercing desire for justice that ascended politics or party. It was primal, seeming to come from that childhood core that remembered the moment when he first understood the concept of justice. While Representative Schiff’s words resonated and were undeniable in substance, I am certain that the spirit of his conviction reverberated in the hearts of those who haven’t forgotten our childhood understanding of simple fairness. We have all been eight-year olds.
Donald Trump is a loathsome bully. His behavior often represents the absolute worst in human nature. The ugliness inside of him reveals itself on the exterior, making his visage, his form and his gestures repulsive. For a man of his nature to break the law on the world’s largest platform and endure no consequence is an offense to the purest parts of our selves. Our basic humanity has already been traumatized by his cruelty. His exoneration will destroy our innocence.
There is no question that the institutions intended to support our democracy are flawed. The electoral college alone is an outdated mechanism originally intended to protect the slave states of the antebellum South. There is no political incentive to change it as it allows those who have hoarded power since our nation’s inception to continue to do so in the face of changing demographics and attitudes.
This trial is different. It’s simply impossible to imagine what will be lost in our souls if Trump’s guilt is dismissed. The feeling is ominous. Great empires emerge and slip into a complacent sense of invincibility. And then they fall. Representative Schiff said it best when he said, “If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”