A few weeks ago, I went there. I told family members who reside politically south of America’s metaphorical Mason-Dixon line that they were unqualified to wrestle with me on the subject of impeachment or anything else related to electoral politics for that matter. In practice, I actually said it even more powerfully than that, and to more than one such relative.
I don’t care if I sound arrogant. I didn’t say what I said because I am over-educated, or even because I’m the editor of a newspaper and report on this stuff for a living. Rather, I said it because I read a lot of books and magazine articles—pallets of them—and it’s insulting to be treated like I am being an asshole when I refuse to engage with someone whose opinions come not from some sort of intellectual survey, but instead whose views are seeded by master propagandists whose rhetorical watermarks somehow always show up in the rants of racist cousins aplenty.
Look, I don’t pay any attention to pro or college athletics, so I wouldn’t be offended if someone who follows ESPN and countless fan sites told me they were out of my league. Yet when the subject turns to politics, I’m an elitist for being prepared. Go figure.
While I’m not one of those liars who claims they want to build bridges with ideological foes, I do wish that more hard-right rabble rousers, or at least those who I have to see on holidays, read an occasional book that isn’t written by an employee of Fox News. Perhaps then we might be able to see together how there is nothing new about the rifts in this country, and maybe even conspire to keep our family on the moral side of history. They’re not asking, but if any cousins, aunts, or uncles want to chat around the campfire next summer, I recommend The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Boston-based author Brenda Wineapple.
My fam and I won’t agree about anything relating to Trump. But if they took in the decidedly nonpartisan Impeachers, I think we might agree about the disgrace that was President Johnson, who Wineapple writes once told “a delegation of black ministers … at the White House … that too many former slaves loaf around, looking to the government for handouts.” Modern Republicans and Democrats and independent voters alike could surely concur that anti-abolitionist disgraced former SCOTUS Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis, who defended Johnson, is a jackass for falsely stating that his “services at the trial were wholly gratuitous—that for all the labor and expense bestowed upon the case he neither asked nor received were numeration.”
And maybe, just maybe, we can all agree that it was a bad thing how “Johnson’s magnanimous policy toward former rebels, his willingness to forgive and embrace them and to welcome them back into the Union, reassured them that white supremacy was true and right and to be defended to the hilt, if not with legislation then with torches, brakes, and guns.”
So long as I don’t mention the perfect parallel to almost every single aspect of the current proceedings around the impeachment of President Trump, I think there may actually be some middle ground between us all.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF