Last week, I wrote that I have had the privilege of living in Israel for almost 37 years and this is one of the times when I am most proud and most grateful for the opportunity to be here. This week, after seeing what went on in the US since the election on November 3rd, I am equally proud of America and the privilege of being a US citizen as well.
You may think my response is counterintuitive given the debacle in Washington this week that was witnessed by people worldwide. To see the US Congress and Senate, the symbols of democracy for the entire world, ravaged by angry mobs egged on by a selfish and self-indulgent president unable to handle his loss, was one of the worst sights that this writer has ever seen.
Enough people have already likened what went on in Washington to what we would normally see (and criticize) in third world countries, not what we expect to see in the hallowed legislative halls of the world’s most successful experiment in democracy. In addition, all of this after nine weeks of almost 60 legal challenges to the election results in multiple states along with an unsuccessful attempt to have the Supreme Court of the US pass judgement on this charade as well.
Given all of this, how can I possibly be proud of being a citizen of the United States today? Very simple, because the system of checks and balances conceived by the founders and ratified by the states 233 years ago (12 years after the Declaration of Independence) proved its mettle.
The courts at every level, state, federal, district and supreme, all found no validity in the poorly presented claims by elements of the Republican Party, which screamed election fraud. Many of the judges involved were themselves appointed by the Trump administration, including three on the Supreme Court. Yet none of them let that influence their judicial responsibilities to uphold the relative state and local constitutions. The standards were upheld, and the judiciary performed admirably.
Yet the mob, egged on by a president who urged them to march on the capitol, was not assuaged by the judicial decisions. Hearing for four years from the leader of the country that the election is going to be rigged, is going to be fraudulent, and may very well be stolen from him, the mob could not internalize the facts and accept the loss. Therefore, they rioted and moved on the US Capitol in an effort to cause havoc, as well they did.
However, what the mob did not count on was that many of the legislators who they believed were with them in their struggle, also had a conscience. That conscience was inexorably connected to the way each of them was raised. They believe, as do I, that governance by an elected majority over the disappointed minority is the bedrock of the democratic system and cannot be overruled by a disappointed mob. When the mob became uncontrollable, the conscience of many of those legislators kicked in and they said, plainly and simple… Enough!
So, once again, the values of America proved too strong to be bent by the mob and that makes me so very proud.
Yet, although the legislative branch has now formally confirmed the election of a new president and vice-president, and the current president has even conceded (albeit continuing to claim that the election was stolen and the people who did so are evil), there remains a significant concern. The current president still has 13 days remaining to his term with incredible power to do serious damage without the permission of Congress. He has his fingers on the nuclear codes, he can start a war on his own, and he can still sign executive orders with abandon. Those powers coupled with the fact that so many of his cabinet members occupy “acting” positions (i.e., not having been confirmed by the Senate) should create a level of discomfort for every thinking citizen.
Let us hope that when the president finally said that there will be a smooth transition of power that he internalized that as well for the good and welfare of the republic.
America has been through a very troubling period. It is not the first time this has happened and will not be the last. To be sure, the polarization that has manifested itself in the creation of two camps seemingly unable to speak with each other threatens to pull the country apart. We can only pray that over the coming years cooler heads will prevail and the core of America’s citizens will understand that the most successful experiment in democracy in the history of the human race is something that is simply too valuable to lose.
Thomas Paine is quoted as saying: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
America’s freedom has, once again, been challenged and, once again, has met the test… the framework has proved its mettle. Yet there is more fatigue ahead as the country must now coalesce into a governable entity whose members will, hopefully find a way to cooperate for the common good. Else, the framework may not hold if tested similarly yet again.