His rights are our rights


Tom Dunn - Contributing columnist



As a retiree, I was free to watch virtually all of the Trump impeachment debacle and its aftermath. Watching the supposed leaders from both parties behave in such a juvenile, self-serving, partisan manner has been, frankly, disgusting. Not surprising, but disgusting.

However, from the “glass is half full” perspective, at least Americans were able to witness for themselves how corrupt the political process is. Hopefully this spectacle will be enough to convince voters to jettison, through the election process, members from both parties, particularly those who have occupied Congressional seats for decades.

One of the more entertaining antics of the hearings occurred when Democrats showed videos of Republicans who were in office during the Clinton impeachment voicing the exact opposite argument then than they make today, followed closely by Republicans showing videos of Democrats who were in power during the Clinton impeachment doing the same thing.

Since the only reason to show these videos would be to expose the hypocrisy of members of the opposing party, consider them both successful. We get it. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have no shame.

And, how ironic is it that apparently no one from either party could see that they were lampooning their opposition for engaging in exactly the same behavior they were exhibiting?

They are that blinded by partisan rage. Sadly, it appears that many non-politicians are, too.

While the political flip-flopping shown in those videos was certainly the typical, partisan political blather we have come to expect, how many of us would like to be held accountable for everything we said or did twenty years ago? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

It is possible to change one’s mind over time for reasons other than political theatrics. Sometimes people do actually acquire newfound wisdom as they age.

As a personal example, my reaction to the implementation of the USA Patriot Act shortly after the 9/11 attacks, which permitted the government to surveil American citizens without warrants, was to naively say, “Go ahead and monitor any conversation of mine you want. I have nothing to hide.”

My response to that same law today is far different, not because I was lying then or would be lying today, but because I have learned over the ensuing two decades that people in government cannot be trusted with unchecked power. The dangers of willingly ceding our individual freedoms to power brokers has been well documented, even as they have repeatedly assured us that doing so is for our own good. How many times do American citizens’ rights need to be abused before we no longer fall for that “just trust us” pledge?

Because I neither hate nor adore President Trump, I have tried to watch the proceedings through the prism of how what both sides were saying affects every individual American, because our own rights could be the collateral damage from the proceedings.

For example, when the Democrats have repeatedly asked, “If he is so innocent, why doesn’t he just fully cooperate with us and prove it?”

The simple answer to that question is, of course, that’s not how America works. The standard in this country isn’t that accusers get to levy their accusations, then the accused must prove them wrong. America’s “innocent until proven guilty” protection isn’t just a pithy little catch phrase for politicians to use to attack their foes. It actually means something.

The House Managers’ contention that anyone who asserts his or her Constitutionally protected rights is guilty as charged should frighten us all, not because of President Trump, but because of us. If you buy their argument, any suspect who refuses to be interviewed by police officers without an attorney present must be guilty of a coverup.

Really?

Similarly, House Democrats have complained that the President has stonewalled them at every turn throughout this investigation, sometimes illegally, and that may well be true. If it is, however, there is a provision for settling that dispute, and that is through the courts.

Just like it would be for you and me.

For accusers to say, “We don’t have time for that,” is an unacceptable and frightening excuse.

The recent FISA Court scandal in which the FBI used false information to receive permission to spy on private American citizens involved in the Trump campaign should alarm every single one of us, whether we like the President, despise him, or are ambivalent about him. After all, we are private citizens, too. Why would we assume that what happened to Carter Page couldn’t happen to us?

We are afforded the same basic rights that were debated vociferously on both the House and Senate floors. It is shocking that so many people cavalierly suggested that those rights didn’t matter when somebody else is on trial. Would they matter if you were the accused, and is it really wise to debate individual rights based on whether we despise or adore the current occupant of the White House?

I think not.

President Trump may well be a danger to our country, but how could we possibly know with the constant dissemination of misinformation by members of both parties? Regardless, willingly casting aside any American’s civil liberties in an effort to obtain a specific desired outcome is every bit as dangerous.

In other words, be careful what you wish for when it comes to tossing aside someone else’s rights, because one day you could be the one sitting in the proverbial hot seat.

I’ll bet they’d matter to you then.

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Tom Dunn

Contributing columnist

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center in Ohio. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center in Ohio. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.