What's Tony Thinking

Impeachment Begins, Civics Lesson Assigned


The public hearings of the impeachment inquiry began yesterday. The Republicans made quite a bit of the fact that both of the civil servants who testified, Bill Taylor and George Kent, were only reporting “hearsay” regarding the President’s alleged attempt at extortion.

This might carry some weight had the President not ordered all those witnesses who could provide first-hand testimony to defy Congressional subpoenas. (By the way, I heard that a bar in D.C. has whipped up a new drink for the occasion, “The Subpoena Colada.” We may need more than one of those to get through this!)

As a counterpoint to all the attempts to dodge, deny and obfuscate in D. C., there’s an interesting story in the Sports Section of the Seattle Times today.

Seahawk fans will remember the name of Malik McDowell who was the team’s highest draft choice in 2017. Before he could ever put on a Seahawk’s uniform McDowell was seriously injured in an ATV accident. So it’s a sad story for this guy who had anticipated the wealth and fame of an NFL career.

But it gets worse . . . then better. McDowell has now been found guilty of receiving stolen goods, driving while intoxicated and assault on a police officer. He was sentenced to 11 months in jail.

But here’s the interesting part. The sentence did not end with the incarceration. While incarcerated McDowell has been given a writing assignment by the judge. He is to write four essays on the following topics:

“Finding Meaning in Life Other Than Committing Crimes,” “Principles of the Declaration of Independence and How Your Behavior Undermines Them,” “Importance of Respecting the Rule of Law,” and “Importance of Respecting Property Rights.”

An impressive list of topics, I’d say.

I have no idea how common this type of assignment is, though I’ve never heard of anything like it before.

Two thoughts about the assignment tendered to Mr. McDowell.

First, how many U.S. citizens today could write intelligibly on these topics? Civics education has pretty much gone by the boards in favor of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and other enthusiasms.  I regard understanding of how government works, or is supposed to work, as part of the inheritance of each citizen in a democracy. Not to have been taught about such matters diminishes the proper inheritance of each citizen (not to mention also jeopardizing democracy).

Second, one would like to see President Trump and his minions address such topics themselves. One might start with, “The Importance of Respecting the Rule of Law.” Trump’s rather expansive notion of executive privilege and immunity adds up to this — he holds himself above the law.

After addressing the rule of law, he might move on to “Principles of the Declaration of Independence and How Your Behavior Undermines Them.” His attempts to induce foreign governments to influence our elections, on his behalf, strikes a blow against something elemental to the Declaration, “the consent of the governed.”

It is impossible to know how all this — the impeachment inquiry and possible trial — will turn out. But I’m pretty sure that our casual unfamiliarity with our own form of government and of the core principles the judge has required Malik McDowell to address — all this ignorance and indifference are a big part of what has made Trump even possible.



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