Dishonor is Forever

Explanatory follow-up on the video I unreasonably suggested, in my last post, that somebody, anybody ought to watch in its excruciating entirety.

I happened upon that extended interview with former federal judge J. Michael Luttig on YouTube a week or so ago. I started watching it because it was produced by the Frontline team, although, until the end, I didn’t know anything about the Judge except that he had a reputation as an ultraconservative and was at one time on a shortlist for the Supreme Court. I knew almost immediately that it was going to require patience. Judge Luttig speaks very slowly and carefully, which is decidedly NOT the kind of breathless, careless chatter that is “in” these days.

I’m glad that I managed to shift gears, watch the whole two hours, and realize that the silence between the words was the sound of an honorable man thinking.  In the interview, Judge Luttig explains that his concern began during the Republican debates in 2016, and was based on increasingly intemperate rhetoric, disregard for standards of discourse in our politics, and disdain for a tradition of abiding by the will of the people. These patterns were predictive, yet too many of our leaders followed instead of leading, some for pragmatic, some for ideological, reasons; to be charitable, they went along to get along. Some of them, despite everything we’ve seen so far, are still going along. A cynical person might reasonably wonder what untold riches or other earthly/heavenly delights they are assuming are in it for them, and for which they are eager to trade their honor.

In the hearing today, Judge Luttig highlighted a foundational truth about democracy, one that he discussed in more detail during the full Frontline interview. He emphasizes that our constitution and its instrumentalities are powerful and, in many ways, enlightened outlines for self-government. But they are inadequate to protect us from tyranny if we don’t learn from this January 6th process, or from even more painful experience on the looming horizon, that “the war from within is the one war that America can never win.”