To Kill A Mockingbird.” alt=”Universal Pictures via wikimedia commons”>
At last, on Tuesday morning, the impeachment hearings the House of Representatives have been holding will turn into actual articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. People like myself who see the president as a threat to democracy and national security aren’t celebrating, but waiting in grim silence for the inevitable. The chance of actually removing the president from office is infinitesimal, thanks to a cynical and cowed Republican Party in the Senate.
It feels hopeless. Maybe it’s better to leave the whole mess in the hands of voters after all. That feels like rolling dice made of dynamite, but would it really be worse than trying and failing to get him out now? Democrats are coming at the king, and they know they’re going to miss.
The arguments against impeachment are so many it’s hard to address all of them, but they all boil down to the same thing: it won’t work, it’ll fire up the president’s base, it’ll make 2020 harder, and it’ll deepen the partisan divide. In short, it makes things worse.
And I get that. I feel the dread deep in my bones that the civic and constitutional crisis we’ve been living through for this entire decade will just get bigger and badder and more explosive until the country is so broken that it can’t ever be fixed.
That’s one of my nightmares. The other thing keeping me awake at night is climate change, something that the horrifying state of American politics is tightly bound to. Last month another report, described by the New York Times as “bleak,” came out warning that greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise with no sign of slowing.
The climate is changing faster than we anticipated. I figure we have maybe 10 good years left before Americans’ way of life is irreversibly altered by strong storms, fires in the west, drought, flooding, mass extinctions, and extremes of heat and cold. We aren’t ready, and the government as it is would rather prop up the fossil fuel industry than even acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis.
It’s too late to stop it, that’s clear. If we take drastic action, we could mitigate it somewhat so our children and grandchildren don’t inherit an uninhabitable country. Right now, though, the federal government will do absolutely nothing.
The fight seems hopeless when you look at it from that angle. So why keep writing about it? Why protest, why try frantically to hold corporations accountable and get state and local governments to pass laws about green energy, recycling, and cutting down on waste? What’s the point?
Because sometimes, even when you know you can’t win, you have to stand up anyway.
My colleague Barth Keck, who is an English teacher, sent me this quote when I mentioned I was writing on this topic. It’s Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and it’s perfect for the situation:
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
That’s why we have to persist on climate change. We can’t win, there is no winning, but the fight is worth fighting. It’s worth standing up and being counted, to take a stand against the callous indifference of those best positioned to survive and thrive what’s coming.
That’s why it was worth taking to the streets in 2003 to protest the looming invasion of Iraq. We marched and shouted, even though it was hopeless. We did it because we had to, because the moral and historical cost of not doing it was too high.
That’s why fighting for gun control matters, even though the ones with the power are so deep in the pockets of the NRA that change is impossible for now.
And that’s why impeachment has to go forward, despite the cost. Democrats are right to take a stand against the loathsome corruption of this president and his administration. They’re right to take a stand for the truth against all of lies we’ve been fed and forced to swallow.
It’ll cost them, and it’ll cost the country. There’s no getting around that, the president and the right-wing media echo chamber will turn impeachment into the trial of a martyr. But it’s the right thing to do. It’s what will help us sleep at night, knowing that at least we did what we could, and what was necessary.
And besides, like Atticus Finch said, every once in a great while you actually win. So take heart, and raise your candle against the darkness.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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