Not Deferential Enough: On rodeos and Congressional committee hearings

Posted Saturday, September 28, 2019 in Opinion

Not Deferential Enough: On rodeos and Congressional committee hearings

From left to right, minority counsel Fred Thompson, ranking member Howard Baker, and chair Sam Ervin of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.

by Gina Hamilton

My crystal ball is slightly fogged up at the moment – might be my heavy breathing upon learning that the House was opening an impeachment inquiry – and therefore I make no prognostication about how this is going to go – yet.

But there are some stark similarities to the beginning of that long, hot summer in 1973, when my juvenile jaw had to be picked up off the floor numerous times just to keep the flies out. The same sense of pride in a profession that I was at the time only marginally a part of – editor of a small junior high school paper and part-time editor of obituaries for the local paper – is rising again. “This,” cries my childish belief in fair play that was somehow not destroyed by Watergate or Iran Contra or Whitewater, or even the evils of the USA PATRIOT Act, “this is why we DO this!”

This is why we are a protected class above all other professions, mentioned by name in the Constitution itself. This is why we were authorized by the founders, and by high court after high court decision, to hold the trembling feet of corrupt government to the fire. This is why we were willing to go to jail to protect sources. This is why. We stand at the brink of yet another hour to save democracy in our own, unique way.

What we as a profession have to recall, as fervently as we want to correct the world of all wrongs, rescue those injured by a wannabe dictator, or hold to account a sociopath who lies as easily as he breathes, is that those who are apologists for the government are usually NOT the government. The ones who challenge us aren't Republican senators or West Wing aides (are there any left?), they are people who are still in shock at the depths to which the US government is capable of betraying them.

Remember, O, Thou Man or Woman or Other, how you felt when you read The Pentagon Papers for the first time. Or when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Or when the fire hoses and police dogs were turned on the Selma marchers. Or when the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass the states. Or when a classroom of first graders was murdered at Sandy Hook. Remember the cold, horrifying sense that you felt you were living in a nation that you no longer recognized.

How long did it take you to accept what happened? Days? Weeks? Months? Did you admit it to yourself, even, right away? Did it spur you to action? Did you take out your anger on the right culprit? Every single time? Probably you expressed anger at someone only marginally involved or a disinterested observer. At least once.

But this isn't our first rodeo or even our first polo match. We're grownups now. All of us.

Keep in mind that this might be the person who is targeting you – the press is an easy target because we are there and reporting the facts, which might well be troubling – might be on his or her first rodeo bronco. Be patient, try to provide the facts that exist, correct misconceptions kindly, and remember, this is a human being in pain. Be proud of what you do, while being exquisitely gentle.

And above all, be polite.

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