On December 31, 2019

All must act in times of crisis

Dear Editor,

As I write this, a block of Senators and Congresspeople are preparing to deny that the Constitution of the United States is on fire. It is a fire set by the President and fanned by their own actions; actions they commit solely out of fear that they might lose their jobs and have to settle for jobs less cushy.

Might it not be time to ask why? Is it the President’s fault?

Of course.

But as the snake said to the person who he had just bitten, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

Trump has never hidden his crimes; instead he flaunts them, insisting they are normal, and frightening into terrified acquiescence those whose job it is to keep the him under control. Then is it the fault of those in the Congress and Senate who prostrate themselves before him?

Of course.

But how did they get those jobs in the first place? They were elected by us, the people of the United States. Not a majority of us to be sure, but a significant and powerful minority. Then is it the fault of the Russians? Or the 1-percenter billionaires? Or the radical right-wing journalists — all of whom have been working hard to persuade us that ‘down is up,’ that ‘red is blue?’

Of course.

But all that they can do is tell stories — stories that are so patently false a child could spot the lies. It is the people who read those stories, know them to be lies, but deliberately turn a blind eye to all the disasters that accompany such a President.

Why do they do so? Because he appoints judges which they hope will support their pet causes. In short, they believe that justice can somehow emerge out of the colossal injustices he has performed.

But these people are a minority in our population — a substantial minority, but a minority, nonetheless. How is it that it is often they who have won those elections? Are the elections rigged? Are people denied their right to vote because of their race or ethnic origin?

Of course.

All of that and more.

But not so much that a rational and concerned majority could not overwhelm them. Then is there no other, more profound reason?

I offer one: It’s my fault. It’s my fault when I send a little money to my favorite candidate and decide that this is the best that I can do. It’s my fault when I fail to listen to the opinions of people who disagree with me and therefore cannot understand them. It’s my fault when I fail to participate in public forms of expression that give my opinions voice: marches, demonstrations, town halls, calling or writing to my Congressman and Senators and thereby empowering them to do more. And, above all the rest, it is my fault if I do not vote.

But I have a much more fundamental problem as well. It’s my fault when I say that I am just one person, that what I do doesn’t count, that no matter what I do or say, what will be will be. I am comfortable doing what little I do, and there is no reason for me to do more.

The Philosopher Emmanuel Kant had something to say about that idea. It was his belief that the fundamental principle behind moral behavior was to act in such a way that, were everyone to follow the principle behind that action, the world would be a better place. Please note: That moral principle does not require that my personal action be successful, or that I be powerful. All it requires is that, no matter what my power, I act as I ought to act, and believe that everyone should act.

The Constitution is on fire. Do you have even a dropper of water to help put out the blaze? After all, it is the only thing that can.

Paul Seward, M.D.,

Middlebury

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