Our democracy is a fragile thing.
If we’re not careful, it might just break.
Listening to President Donald Trump’s defenders in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, the last day of his historic impeachment trial, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer our country will survive.
You don’t have to be a historian to know that, time and again, our nation has found itself on the brink of falling apart.
The Civil War nearly destroyed us. Pearl Harbor. Nazism. Communism. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. All posed potentially mortal threats to our way of life, but American democracy, fortunately, is also resilient.
Still, let’s not delude ourselves. Defending our democracy, flaws and all, takes a clear understanding that the U.S. is based on an idea, spelled out by our founders in the Constitution.
But ideas fade, and, like the people who create them, all empires die.
Someday, our country will go the way of Athens, Rome, the Mayan civilization and all the rest. That’s not meant to be cynical. It’s a plain reading of history.
I don’t believe we’re done yet, but I worry that, unless we turn this thing around soon, we could quickly reach the point of no return.
I’ve always believed in the strength and virtue of our system of checks and balances. It’s a concept I likely bought into long before I could explain it or the proposition that Americans deserve “justice for all.”
The system is not always just, but that doesn’t nullify the belief that freedom and justice are worth achieving, defending, even dying for.
It’s because we know what justice looks like that we recognize injustice in our daily lives and our country’s story.
In the wake of Trump’s acquittal by the U.S. Senate, I believe those who defended the president’s blatantly illegal and unpatriotic behavior, even as they couldn’t bring themselves to defend his character, will live the rest of their days with a lie in their heart.
To Trump’s apologists in the Senate: The American people know that you know better. No one gets to a position like yours without having experienced injustice. You’ve either been subjected to it, witnessed it or doled it out yourself.
This week, Trump’s abettors in the Senate stared at the face of injustice and flinched. Worse yet, they set aside their better judgement and averted their gaze in the name of salvaging the coveted trappings of membership in what some have called the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”
For now, at least, that moniker no longer applies.
Has Trumpism mortally wounded our democracy? I hope not.
Our system has lasted 240 years, and I’d like to think we have a few more good centuries in us.
It’s my hope and belief that the November election will give rise to an unprecedented expression of the people’s will to protect our democracy and reject Trump’s repressive agenda. We’ve proven before that our democracy is resilient.
But I’m also deeply worried, because I know that democracy is a fragile thing and, like the people who create them, all empires die.