Our Constitution emerged from policy disagreements that were resolved through impassioned civil discourse. The founding fathers provided a model for solving the nation's complex problems that has lasted for centuries. Today, however, we are being pushed into dangerous territory by a determined minority willing to undermine our very democracy in exchange for power.
We are now regularly experiencing the gaslighting of America by people who insist that what we are seeing does not exist. When Ketanji Brown Jackson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same senators who reassured her at the outset that she would be treated with respect and dignity then proceeded to distort her record, denigrate her qualifications, and fabricate a narrative that was devoid of reality.
They smeared Judge Jackson with concocted allegations that she coddled pedophiles and wanted to teach critical race theory to grammar school students. Then they went to the microphones to report on the respectful hearing process she was given.
Last month, the governor of Florida publicly humiliated high school students who wore masks to an indoor event. He disparaged their choice to wear a mask to protect themselves and their family members by ridiculing their caution as "Covid theater." His bullying caused most of the teens to awkwardly remove their masks as they stood uncomfortably behind him while he spoke. Students as props must look the part, apparently.
Yet throughout the pandemic, the governor has gaslighted America by touting Florida as experiencing the lowest Covid rates without implementing "communist mandates & lockdowns", while ignoring the fact that the state's case and death rates are among the highest in the nation. Public health crises cannot be solved by hiding facts.
Now the country is witnessing a spate of laws being imposed on the public under gaslit assertions of protecting families when the exact opposite is true. Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law and its progeny across the country are models of vague statutory construction that will ensure that children with family members who are outside heterosexual norms are devalued and shamed. Teachers will be unable to answer questions honestly while the law's draconian and possibly unconstitutional enforcement mechanisms impose a dangerous and shameful silence.
We cannot heal our country's divisions without accurate facts. "Alternative facts" do not exist, only alternative ideas are real. Nor can we allow civil discourse and compromise to become historic relics, replaced by the denial of reality for the sole purpose of gaining power at the expense of truth and democracy.
The institutions within our legal profession can no longer find comfort in neutrality or false equivalencies. We must speak out and act as though our democracy and our children's future depend on it. Because they do.
Heroes of American Democracy: Volodymyr Zelensky and the people of Ukraine
The courage and commitment to democracy shown by Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia's brutal invasion are an inspiration for the entire world. President Zelenskyy is not only fighting for his country, but against the rise of autocratic regimes globally.
When President Zelenskyy was offered an evacuation alternative after Ukraine was invaded, his response became the battle cry that will be included in history books for decades. "I need ammunition, not a ride" will long be remembered as the words of a hero who galvanized nations to help his fight for democracy.
Much is at stake in the response to Putin's efforts to bully his nearest neighbors into compliance with his goals while gaslighting his own people into believing falsehoods.
Ukraine (or parts of it) was an independent state or states during the 17th and 18th Century. Catherine the Great of Russia, conquered and absorbed large portions of Ukraine into the Russian Empire in several battles throughout the 18th Century. The Tsars tried to Russify Ukraine by forbidding the teaching of the Ukrainian language and literature. Russification required one leader - the Tsar, one religion - Russian Orthodoxy, and one language - Russian. Ukraine again became independent, during WWI.
After the Russian Revolution, Ukraine, as an independent state, co-founded the USSR. Stalin's collectivization of agricultural production caused the starvation and genocide of nearly four million Ukrainians. In the 20th Century, Russians carried out campaigns of repression and persecution in Ukraine.
In 1991, the USSR collapsed, and the separate republics declared their independence as sovereign nations. Ukraine revived the Ukrainian language and culture, restored freedom of religion, and dismantled its nuclear weapons in an agreement with the US, UK and Russia, with each guaranteeing Ukrainian sovereignty in 1994.
Ukraine's new constitution provided for a strong presidency, strong legislature, and prime minister. Zelenskyy, trained as a lawyer, with a successful career as an actor and a comedian (who played an accidental president), was elected President in 2019 with over 70% of the vote.
The 2019 Ukrainian elections centered on economic development, relationships with Europe, the EU and NATO, and its heavily armed Eastern neighbor, Russia. Putin's prior invasions backfired politically, uniting the nation of Ukraine in defense of its independence from Russia and strengthening their resolve to join the EU (which is now at the record high of 91%).
President Zelenskyy has shocked both Russia and NATO by holding off the Russian assault on Kyiv. No one can predict whether the steadfast defense of their homeland by the people of Ukraine, in combination with Western economic sanctions and arms to the Ukrainian soldiers, can defeat Putin's brutality, but the consequences are incalculable for the future of the region and the European continent.
President Zelenskyy was recently asked on 60 Minutes, "What must the world understand?" His answer was a challenge to us all: "We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world. … I never thought this right was so costly."
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
These cherished First Amendment rights of speech, association, peaceful assembly and to petition our government for redress of grievances do not encompass efforts to violently overthrow the results of elections.
On January 6, thousands of Americans sought to overturn the lawful election of Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. They were entitled to assemble and express their points of view, and to ask their representatives to listen to their grievances about the election, even though Donald Trump lost by over 7 million votes.
Their rights, however, did not include the right to assault police, break into offices, vandalize the United States Capitol, or interfere with the ceremonial counting of the Electoral College votes. It is critical that those who threatened the fundamental right to vote and have those votes be counted are held accountable for their actions.
America cannot be gaslighted into believing that January 6 was simply a protest march.
As the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol continues its investigation, more information comes to light about avowedly white supremacist organizations whose hate-filled vision for America includes praise for Hitler and Putin, antisemitism, and racism.
Guy Reffitt and fellow Texas Three Percenter Rocky Hardie drove from Texas to Washington D.C. armed with weapons, ammunition, zip ties and communication equipment. Last month, a jury quickly convicted Reffitt of charges arising from the January 6 attack.
In exchange for partial immunity, Hardie testified against Reffitt, as did Reffitt's son, who reported being threatened by his father to keep quiet. Reffitt will be sentenced in June and faces up to 60 years in prison.
Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the extremist group, Proud Boys, has been charged with a variety of counts, including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding by directing and encouraging the Proud Boys. Tarrio himself was not in attendance January 6th as he had been arrested two days earlier for vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a Black church.
Stewart Rhodes and 10 other members of the Oath Keepers are being charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the takeover of the US Capitol. Allegations include their amassing of weapons on the outskirts of D.C. for their quick response team to use if needed in support of the insurrection. Rhodes, a lawyer and graduate of Yale Law School, founded and leads the organization which has espoused overthrowing the government by force.
Every individual behind the extensive planning and efforts that day must be held accountable for these threats to our democracy.