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Schubart: Drawing The Line

Growing up in the transition from Vermont’s “Republican century” to the Democratic “sixties,” the political labels we used seemed meaningless in the many discussions I had with people of differing political ideals. I usually found commonsense and decency in their differing perspectives.

The social compression of Vermont’s small towns, both in daily life and annually at town meeting, didn’t inhibit diversity of opinion on any topic. But the fact that we depended on one another in hard times, attended the same churches, traded in the same stores, and buried our dead in the same cemeteries meant we generally spoke civilly to one another, considered opposing opinions, and often found common ground.

I don’t know whether it’s the inherent distance of digital communication, a general decline in life’s imposed exigencies, our obsession with “things” over values, or whether we’re just Amusing Ourselves to Death as Neil Postman wrote in 1985, but the loss of civil engagement that has paralyzed Congress for years has apparently now spread to the White House – though for now at least, the Supreme Court still seems to be capable of occasionally rendering coherent decisions.

But setting politics and ideologies aside, I find myself increasingly wondering what to do when leadership at the top falters.
Once the hope of the world, we’re fast becoming a disappointing puzzle to many and a source of fear to others. The very values that made us a beacon are under attack and growing dimmer.

There’s increasing concern that inexperience and confusion in the White House are doing irreversible harm and polls show that many voters who believed campaign promises to “make America great again” are also having doubts, as they see their own interests being tabled. This president and his closest advisors dictate, but appear incompetent to govern themselves, let alone our country. Even those who aspire to wealth or power from their proximity to this president are showing signs of anxiety. The process of impeachment is again being mentioned – impeachable offenses usually being described as treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. But only two presidents in U.S. history have been impeached and both were acquitted.

So my question today is… where to draw the line, who should do the drawing - and how much longer we can afford to wait.

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.
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