Syndicated columnist Jamie Stiehm: A pearl of hope for an unhappy birthday
Some birthdays are better or worse than others. America's 246th was a lot like 1863. In a dark gloom, a civil war without cannons is now on, full blast.
On one side, we have a relentless truth-seeking missile, the Jan. 6 committee. I was in the stately room when Cassidy Hutchinson testified that former President Donald Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent because he wanted to direct his coup, literally, every step of the way to the Capitol.
The hearing was jaw-dropping, even for the press. Through Hutchinson's crystal calm words, it became clear beyond doubt the armed mob assembled to seize the election for Trump with force and blood. They came at his beck and call. Its sound and fury was astounding, about 30,000 strong.
I was in the Capitol when the House chamber was under siege. Even now, I can scarcely stand viewing the gruesome attack on democracy's citadel.
On the other side, the Supreme Court just declared war on the American people. Five men and one woman, to be exact, showed no restraint in lashes on common sense, law and custom in the public square. It's not enough to take 50 years of human rights away from women and young girls. All six Republicans also lifted gun restrictions and environmental regulation of carbon emissions. Then they skipped town.
This comes as July 4 marks another mass shooting, in Highland Park, Illinois, as the parade was about to begin. The Trump trifecta on the court is cold enough: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who took the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's place on the bench days before the election, no tears. But it's the petulant senior Republicans, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who bear the blame for this hard right turn against the will of the American people.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who puts on a show of being centrist, can be counted as a confederate in this war. After all, he favored dark money as free speech and led striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act. Now Roberts has sided against women and girls, gun safety and action on climate change, like the rest of the Republican supermajority. He can't coast anymore with his polished manners.
What's more, Roberts was named by George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote. He has no connection with "we the people." The same is true for Alito and the new Trump wing.
Being linked with unpopular presidents further undercuts their authority to sit in judgment on us. And it makes it harder to accept their harsh decisions.
If you don't believe me about the crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court, author Norman Ornstein, the leading expert on Washington politics, had this to say:
"Since the Civil War, we have not had anything as dangerous as what we face now. The Supreme Court has gone completely rogue and cannot be trusted to protect our constitutional framework.
"Too much of the public is simply unaware of the danger. And chillingly, many don't really care."
A pending case on state legislatures overseeing federal elections is also truly alarming, Ornstein says.
Let me tell you about my Fourth. I went down to the National Mall to be inspired by the Folklife Festival. Under the hot sun I spied the Smithsonian partnership this year: the United Arab Emirates.
A curious choice, given our democracy needs a helping hand.
Yet here's a pearl of hope that never fails on the Fourth. Gen. Robert E. Lee, daring and reckless, led his Confederate army farther North than ever into Pennsylvania.
(Compare that move to the brazen Supreme Court.)
The Confederate army clashed with a huge Union army. The mighty battles they fought in the Devil's Den, the Peach Orchard and finally, in vain, Pickett's Charge, took place on July 1, 2 and 3.
Then the smoke cleared, cannons fell silent and casualties were strewn all over beautiful farmland.
Lee lost the turning point of the Civil War by the Fourth of July, 1863. The Union won the midway battle under Gen. George Meade.
On July 4, 1863, the Civil War was ours to lose.
But it was -- and is -- a close call.
© 2022, Creators