Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Ruminating On The Latest January 6th Hearing...and Looking for Words of Encouragement... The Beginning


It's been a while since I've had such an overt God Incident as I began to write. First, I was planning to go in one direction, but as soon as I sat down, I heard the song, Abide With Me through the Holy Spirit. Then when I got to the YouTube site, my eyes were immediately drawn to the name of the above, second, video, Abide in God's Presence Always... 

It just might mean that I...and perhaps you(?) needed to hear all of these words about God abiding in us...always... and I Give Thanks for that gentle nudge of comfort and security...

On the other hand, I was originally thinking of a man of God whose words I was reading late yesterday...

When you intervene, 
you have to stand up and take the consequences.

FROM THE TIME I was little I had a picture in my head of the sort of man I wanted to become, a picture filled in by my mom and dad, by the teachings of the Catholic schools I attended, by stories I heard about our family hero, Uncle Bosie, a pilot who was shot down in World War II, and by a faith in the size of my own future. During my adolescent and college years, men and women were changing the country—Martin Luther King Jr.,
John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy—and I was swept up in their eloquence, their conviction, the sheer size of their improbable dreams. I knew I wanted to be a part of the change. I didn’t know how. I had no plan, but I knew. And as it turned out, surprising political opportunities opened up for me when I was a young man. When they did, I was not shy about pursuing them, because I already had a picture of what I had to do—how I had to conduct myself—to take advantage of them...

“People don’t know who or what to believe in—and, most of all, they are afraid to believe in politicians,” I told the crowd at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington when I announced my candidacy for the Senate in 1972. We must have public officials who will stand up and tell the people exactly what they think…. Our failure in recent years has not been the failure of the people to meet the challenges placed before them, but rather the failure of both our great political parties to place those challenges honestly and courageously before the people, and to trust the willingness of the people to do the things that really need to be done…. We all know—or at least we are told continually—that we are a divided people. And we know there’s a degree of truth in it. We have too often allowed our differences to prevail among us. We have too often allowed ambitious men to play off those differences for political gain. We have too often retreated behind our differences when no one really tried to lead us beyond them. 

But all our differences hardly measure up to the values we all hold in common…. I am running for the Senate because…I want to make the system work again, and I am convinced that is what all Americans really want. I believed that in 1972; I still believe it today. Our nation’s founders framed a political system of uncommon genius, and generation after generation of Americans has used that system to make the country more fair, more just, more welcoming, more committed to individual rights. The United States has the finest and fairest system of governing the world has ever known. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with the system; it’s up to each of us to do our part to make it work. It’s been my privilege to serve that purpose. I’ve been a United States senator from Delaware more than half my life. And after almost thirty-five years I’m more passionate about the job and more committed to what I’m doing than I’ve been in my entire career. Any day of the week you can read or hear about the lamentable state of our nation’s politics, about our bitter and partisan party divisions, about the regrettable coarseness of the discourse. I don’t deny it, but from inside the arena none of it feels irreversible or fatal. We can always do better. I believe that, or I wouldn’t still be in politics. In fact, I sense a greater opportunity today than any time in my career. Maybe it’s because after all these years, people actually listen to me...

It felt like a sacred place when I got there, and I’ve never lost that feeling. Thirty-five years later I still get goose bumps when I come out of Union Station and see the Capitol dome. I started at the bottom, dead last in seniority, with an office so small that people on my staff had to get up and stand sideways just so somebody could open the front door. At the time I had no intention of serving more than six months. But I lasted long enough to serve, at different times, as chairman of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. Things have changed in my six terms, for better and for worse. I served with the last of the southern segregationists, but I was there to see Carol Moseley Braun and Barack Obama sworn in. There was not a single woman in the Senate in 1973. Today there are sixteen, and one of them has a real shot at the presidency. 

In committee rooms, conference rooms, the cloakroom, and on the floor of the Senate itself, I’ve witnessed the decline of common decency and a growing unwillingness of colleagues to try to see the world through another’s eyes. I’ve seen a rise in partisanship and the rising power of money in both campaigns and governance. But I’ve also seen a thousand small kindnesses from one side of the aisle to the other and hundreds of acts of personal and political courage. The rules and traditions of the Senate have a way of asking the best of the men and women who serve. Back in the early days of my first term, when the courts ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, the government appeared headed toward a constitutional crisis. The president asked Senator John Stennis to run interference for him, to listen to the tapes, summarize them for his colleagues, but keep them away from the full Senate. Stennis demurred. He would not run interference for the executive branch; the tapes should be available to all. 

John Stennis acted on principle to uphold the Constitution. I remember what he said in the Democratic caucus that day: “I’ve thought long and hard on what my obligation is. I’ve decided what I’m honor bound to do…and I’ve decided I am a Senate man. I am not the president’s man. Therefore, I will not listen to the tapes. I am a man of the Senate.” I’m proud to say I am a Senate man, too. The job plays to my strengths and to my deepest beliefs. I serve the citizens of Delaware, but I also serve the Constitution and the nation. George Washington called the Senate a “cooling” institution, conceived to operate outside the political expediencies of the moment. The nation’s founding documents impel United States senators to take the long view in both national and international affairs; to offer on every issue what wisdom and intelligence we bring collectively and individually; to protect the minority from destructive passions of the majority; and to keep an eye fixed on any president who reaches beyond the limits of his or her power. The Senate was designed to play this independent and moderating role, and it is a solemn duty and responsibility that transcends the partisan disputes of any day or any decade. 

AS A UNITED STATES senator I’ve watched (and played some small part in) history: the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, the Bork nomination, the fall of the Berlin wall, the reunification of Germany, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, 9/11, two wars in Iraq, a presidential impeachment, a presidential resignation, and a presidential election decided by the Supreme Court. I have been in war zones across the world and have seen genocide up close. I have sat face-to-face for hard talk with Kosygin, Khadafy, Helmut Schmidt, Sadat, Mubarak, and Milosevic. I’ve seen Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and two Bushes wrestle with the presidency. I ran my own race for president and had to pick up the pieces after the train wreck…then nearly died from a cranial aneurysm. In the aftermath I had to remake my health, my reputation, and my career in the Senate. The years since then have been my most rewarding. I count my role in helping to end genocide in the Balkans and in securing the passage of the Violence Against Women Act as my proudest moments in public life. If I had accomplished nothing else (and if I accomplish nothing more), for me those two efforts redeem every second of difficulty and doubt in my long career. 

I’ve learned plenty about myself over the years, but I believe I’ve learned even more important lessons about the American people—about their point of particular pride. Just after I won my first election to the Senate in 1972, I used to say I had great faith in the American people—and I really meant it. I wasn’t just saying it in speeches; it was pillow talk with my wife. I was so proud of the race we ran in 1972; it was honest, straightforward, and clean. I really believed I had lived up to my grandpop’s admonitions. The Biden for Senate campaign meant to preserve the integrity of politics, and I felt that we’d been vindicated for that effort. I’d talk about it with my wife, Neilia, in our big new house: “I do, Neilia. I really do. I have great faith in the American people.” Neilia was always more clear-eyed than I am. “Joey,” she said, “I wonder how you would have felt if you lost?” 

Full disclosure: I do not have absolute faith in the judgment and wisdom of the American people. We’re all human, and we can all be misled. When leaders don’t level with citizens, we can’t expect them to make good judgments. But I do have absolute faith in the heart of the American people. The greatest resource in this country is the grit, the resolve, the courage, the basic decency, and the stubborn pride of its citizens. I know thousands of ordinary Americans, faced with burdens that would break many of us, who get up every single day and put one foot in front of the other and make it work. Most do it without demanding special favors or pity, even while the more fortunate among us stand willing to help ease those burdens. I’m convinced of the generosity, determination, and capabilities of our fellow Americans. I’ve seen it over and over, but it came home to me dramatically in the hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The planes hit while I was on the train from Wilmington to Washington, and when I came out of Union Station that morning, I could see a haze of smoke rising from the Pentagon across the Potomac. 

It was a morning of surreal stillness. There was almost no breeze. It was so quiet, I could hear myself breathe as I walked toward the Capitol dome. I was struck by the warm glow of sun on my face and the sharpness of the cobalt blue sky, which was strangely unmarred by air traffic. But beneath the calm there was a gathering feeling of panic on the ground in Washington. 

The Capitol building had already been evacuated. Senators, House members, and their staffs were milling around the park between the Capitol and Union Station. Some were talking on cell phones. Some were already arguing about the need for funding Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense system. The Capitol police refused to let anybody back into the building, but they were offering briefings for a select group of elected officials at a command post on the top floor of a four-story building behind the Senate offices. Most members were camping out on the floor below. So I was shuttling back and forth between floors, trying to persuade anyone who would listen that we should get back in session and show the American people we were taking care of business. Nobody would budge; leaders in both parties were being told they should be prepared to leave town. Congressman Bob Brady, who had also been pushing our colleagues to get back in session, finally gave up in disgust. He thought he might be able to do some good back in his home district in Philadelphia, and he offered to drop me in Wilmington on the way. On the way out, Brady and I could sense the panic rising as we walked through scores of reporters outside the building; they were understandably anxious to get some word of what was happening. 

“Senator Biden,” a reporter from ABC said to me, “senators I’ve spoken to and members of Congress as well have said we are now at war. Senator Shelby, who is the ranking member on the intelligence committee, has said we are now essentially at war. We have to be on a war footing. And Senator Chuck Hagel says we have to start securing our borders, locking down our airports, revisiting the way we protect our public institutions. What about that?” 

“I hope that’s not true,” I told her and her listening audience. I would say it another way. I would say we’ve come face-to-face with a reality. A reality we knew existed and we knew was possible. A reality that has happened to varying degrees in other countries. But if in fact, in order to respond to that reality, we have to alter our civil liberties, change the way we function, then we have truly lost the war…. The way to conduct the war is to demonstrate that your civil liberties, your civil rights, your ability to be free and walk and move around in fact are not fundamentally altered…. There are a lot of things we can do though to diminish significantly the possibility of this happening again without changing our character as a nation…. This nation is too big, too strong, too united, too much a power in terms of our cohesion and our values to let this break us apart. And it won’t happen. It won’t happen. 

By then the Senate and House leadership had been convinced to board helicopters for a flight to a secure location in West Virginia. The vice president had been spirited away to an undisclosed hideaway. The president was flying from safe spot to safe spot on Air Force One; he’d been convinced it was too dangerous to come back to D.C. The Twin Towers had collapsed by the time we got on the road toward Wilmington, and the death estimates in New York were five, six, seven thousand—maybe more. 

But when I got home and put on the television, I saw that the American heart was still beating strong. Doctors and nurses were standing by at hospitals in New York City, ready to treat the wounded. Snaking through the streets and up the avenues were long lines of New Yorkers waiting to give their blood, even though word was being passed that no more blood was needed. I could see it in their faces: They were hungry to do something, anything. Nobody was talking about war footings or payback. They just wanted to do their part. That was the day that reminded me that even in a moment of almost total silence from their leaders in Washington, Americans would rise to the occasion. Watching those people on the blood lines, I was convinced the country would get up off the mat, face the new challenge head-on, and emerge stronger for having done it. 

To me this is the first principle of life, the foundational principle, and a lesson you can’t learn at the feet of any wise man: Get up! The art of living is simply getting up after you’ve been knocked down. It’s a lesson taught by example and learned in the doing...

As I opened the ebook of Promises to Keep, I realized that, once again, I was being led to go to this book when I needed to read words of encouragement about things happening in America these days...

Yesterday, listening to another hearing describing the January 6 Insurrection, was illuminating... I heard and saw the actions of those who were intent on using and spreading lies in order to gain or retain power--the power of a political position which could be used to help America...or to gain personal power. It was obvious as we learned about the "unhinged" meeting that we have two distinct groups of people in relation to all that is detrimentally happening now... Those that will do anything or say anything in order to gain personal prestige and recognition from an individual in power... And those who actually believed in that individual in power.

It's the latter group that was truly heartbreaking to listen to and consider...

I watched as two men spoke about their involvement. The first was a past member of a known militia group who participated in the Insurrection. He spoke about the leader working to increase his own exposure and power...

The second man spoke of his believing the president as he lied about election fraud, stating that he went to the Capitol because his president told him to, but once he got there he began to question what was going on...and finally left when the then president told them to leave. He told of being charged, losing his job and how his life had been turned upside down. I couldn't help but notice how his wife would often lift her lip as in derision or contempt... Perhaps she felt that the committee--or somebody--should have stopped Trump from his actions, before it was too late...? We may never know just how many lives have been affected detrimentally by the former president...

And, for many, things are still occurring that are initiated by the far-right republican party members... They have seen how "easy" it is to dupe some Americans and so they keep on trying to lie and steal our lives in one way or another...That is the real theft happening daily!

For me, for instance, it is hard to get excited about the supposed changes related to guns...while, at the same time, it was being negotiated, there were more children and adults murdered by assault guns in particular. It is hard to get excited about some small measure of change, while at the same time, the very real danger is still happening daily! Both related to guns and personal women's health and other types of freedoms once gained but now being targeted!

                     11-year-old rape victim couldn't have abortion under new Ohio law

It's hard, I know, trying to watch, look, and listen...striving to determine the facts, the truth... But, like Joe Biden said at one time, Get up! Allow yourself to doubt, to face the idea that you can be wrong...and it's alright to be long as you then look for the truth... Let's work on that idea...together! O.K.?

God Bless

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