The U.S. Capitol – the People's House
Forget for a moment, if you can, about the daily assault on our civil rights as Americans. Forget, if you can, that this administration wants to take healthcare away from twenty-four million of our fellow Americans. Forget, if you can, the trillion dollar tax cut giveaway to the richest and most powerful among us.
Because these things we can claw back in time, in fact, I’m certain we will, and that is provided many of these atrocities even become law, a rather dubious proposition given their naked cruelty and spite. Now would be a good time to pray not even for the patriotism of republicans on the Hill, you might as well sacrifice a goat to some forgotten pagan god for all the good it would do, merely for their sense of self-preservation as the Republic burns.
What will be considerably more difficult to restore is something ineffable, intangible, that rests at the heart of America not as a place but as an idea. An idea that we are more than a random spot on the map with a theme song and a catchy slogan.
We have said, for over two hundred years, that we are a country not of men, but of laws. We have said that we will tolerate no king and bow to no crown. That we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That our word is our bond, that we will keep faith with our friends and oppose our enemies until such a day when they lay down their arms or join us in the embrace of human liberty. The matchless power of the United States lies not just in our fleets and armies spread across half the globe, it rests on a foundation of ideals, of aspirations that humans are capable and driven to rise above the law of the jungle, where the strong devour the weak and might makes right.
This is the legacy we, as a nation, have handed to a man who is simply inadequate to the enormity of what came before him, what he is bound by oath, law and trust to pass on to a successor.
"The man seated across from me had been a spy for the United States for several decades. Recruited by a C.I.A. officer, this man, at great risk to his and his family's lives, had provided critically important intelligence that formed the basis of inumerable raw intelligence reports, some of which found their way into the President’s Daily Brief.
"We met because he wanted to tell me something. With tears in his eyes, he explained that he was drawn to work for us by the idea of America – that America stood for justice, decency and freedom and against tyranny, oppression and injustice. He said that he agreed to divulge critical secrets about his government’s leaders and his country’s capacities – not because the agency had compromising material on him (it did not) and not for money (he was paid, but not much), but because he believed in America.
"This man’s story is hardly unique. Many people agree to become spies for the C.I.A. because they see a stark difference between our ideals and the repressive and brutal regimes of their own countries.
"A friend told me recently about one of his best recruits, a full-fledged member of a terrorist organization. This person was captivated by the prospect that after his days of spying against terrorists were over, he might be able to go to the United States and pursue the American Dream. He, too, viewed America as embracing the world’s downtrodden and dispossessed, not their oppressors, and offering everyone the opportunity to succeed."
We know nothing more about these men. They toil in the shadows, not for power, wealth or fame, but because the ideas that animate America speak to them. Their work and their sacrifice should humble all of us. The things we take for granted, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are to them only a vague and distant hope, a hope that one day they too may share in our abundance. They sacrifice not for themselves, only so we may live free.
We owe these men something, owe them our last full measure of devotion to save our Republic, to wrest it away from those who would burn it to the ground. As Tocqueville said, “America is not good because she is great, America is great because she is good.” Words matter.
America must remain good. Resist.
This article by Michael Bouldin previously appeared at Daily KOS, here.