I've tried, since 2016, to figure out why so many of my Republican friends I've been blessed to work with on various community and political efforts over several decades have benignly accepted what's been called the "hypocrisy on stilts" of the Trump administration.
There's the metaphor about the frog that perishes as the temperate water he hopped into grows incrementally hotter, finally reaching a fatal boiling point. Appropriately descriptive, perhaps. But I stumbled across another one late night last weekend while wandering, as I sometimes do, down an online music rat hole. Songwriter/musician Mark Erelli's song "By Degrees" starts like this:
"When I take a look around me sometimes I wish I was blind
Feels like something sacred's dying, one headline at a time
I can't tear myself away, no I just stare in disbelief
You can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees"
Perhaps that rings a bell for you too?
Think "lock her up." Even former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy concluded his Benghazi panel's 11 hours of Hillary Clinton public grilling was "an unmitigated failure" and Trump's "Spygate" was, to coin a phrase, fake news. Consider "many fine people on both sides" and "no collusion, no obstruction," accepting Putin's opinions over unanimous findings by U.S. intelligence and national security agencies and, most recently, personal attacks on decorated military officers and honorable non-partisan career diplomats.
To some, facts make no difference. Truth is malleable. We choose favored information sources and ignore those that don't fit our personal narrative.
"I've seen talking heads shout back and forth across some great divide
Against a map of red and blue, points of view so cut and dried
But when you look into the mirror what color country do you see?
Where you learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees"
The best version of "By Degrees" features Roseanne Cash, Josh Ritter, Sheryl Crow and others. It can be found on most online music sites and benefits wounded former congresswoman Gabby Gifford's organization fighting gun violence. Apropos, considering another poignant verse.
"I've seen little hands on little shoulders, children in a line
I've seen them led away from school as the shots rang out inside
And I thought something had to change but somehow it's become routine
We can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees"
It's easy to predict some responses I'll get to this reflection, especially remembering those that came after previous critical columns. As with the impeachment hearings, few will directly address accusations we've heard.
There'll be "…but Hillary (and/or Bill)" and "…but Benghazi" versions of the "…but everyone else is doing it" rationalization that our parents summarily dismissed. Complaints alleging "…secret testimony" and "…behind closed doors" despite Democrats following rules originally written by majority Republicans when impeachment was considered for a president of another party. More calls to name the original accuser despite bipartisan consensus when that statute was written that whistleblowers be protected. Fingers pointed at "Shifty Schiff" and "Nervous Nancy" and, this coming week, fresh name-calling about House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler.
I also expect personal attacks, to be accused of "having blinders on," of being "callous" and "promoting hatred" of a leader whose fact-checked Twitter posts and public statements have been proven false multiple times per day every day he's been in office. Whose spur-of-the-moment policies like trade wars and suddenly-acceptable record deficits harm the very people, farmers and ranchers, manufacturers and small business owners, retirees tethered to "socialist" benefits like Social Security and Medicare, who inexplicably remain his strongest defenders.
There's little chance this president will be removed from office by anything other than the next election. One benefit of the impeachment process will be the exclamation point it's placed on the extent to which his supporters have embraced the shameful belief that the end justifies the means.
"I see sadness seep into my heart, each day a little more
This darkness growing so familiar, I can't recall what came before
My children's faces filled with questions, looking up expectantly
And I don't know what to tell them
No I can't bring myself to tell them
That you can learn to live with anything when it happens by degrees."
Jim Spehar's hoping some of his GOP friends hop out of the pot before the water boils. Comments to email@example.com.