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Not long ago a loved one wrote to me "... our country is being torn to shreds ... and this is a time for gratitude that we had decades of a more hopeful time."
Last night, as I began work on a new column, they wrote again that they were "... so gratified by Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony yesterday that [they] actually felt there is hope for this country. We need to work hard at it, though!"
Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was a flicker of light teasing us from the darkness that has been descending upon our nation; testimony to the sixth in a series of hearings convened by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack made all the more remarkable as it was articulated by a patriotic 25-year-old Republican woman who had interned both for Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Steve Scalise, both unrepentant supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Cassidy Hutchinson is a 2018 college graduate, and young Republican, who once described to a reporter that she was “brought to tears” when she learned, as a first-generation college student, that she’d been accepted to a White House internship. She is a former White House aide and Assistant to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — a position that placed her fully within the corrupt and treasonous vortex that threatened America's very existence.
She never imagined, I am sure, that after giving two hours of testimony to the House Committee that still will have driven a stake through the heart of unreconstructed insurrectionists and seditionists with her measured and courageous retelling of what was roiling Trump's White House at a time of national peril.
"When hearing Rudy's [Guilliani] take on January 6th, and then Mark [Meadows]' response," she told us, " ... that evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen January 6th."
That a young woman, anxious to serve her nation, should be placed in a position where she would feel vulnerable, scared, and nervous for speaking truth to power is unforgivable.
That a young woman who had come to Washington to be an“effective leader in the fight to secure the American dream for future generations,” may need security because she had the courage to speak to preserve a nation, is unfathomable.
"As an American, I was disgusted," Hutchinson testified. "It was unpatriotic, it was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie."
Unconscionably, that the nation needed to wait until June 28, 2022 to learn that Donald Trump directed his supporters to the Capitol even after being informed some of them had weapons, is criminal.
"They aren't here to hurt me; take the 'effing' mags [magnetometers] away ... Let my people in they can march to the Capitol from here."
Today's reality is that the United States of America — as we celebrate Independence day weekend — nearly lost it all 18 months ago — and it's still not secure today.
After the presidential election of 2020 America has endured over 18 months of Republican-supported voter-fraud claims that were profoundly false, malicious, and destabilizing; a coup-plot to overturn the election; pleas for presidential pardons; and plans to assassinate lawmakers and then-Vice President Pence; all facilitated by weak, cowardly, mostly white men too narcissistic and hungry for power and profit to protect the nation.
Be alert: It's not over yet.
On the other hand there is something serendipitous, perhaps, in the timing of these revelations; of Hutchinson's testimony witnessed in proximity to the Fourth of July.
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, initially invited to give a speech on July 4th, chose instead to speak to the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, on July 5, the anniversary of a 1827 march by 4,000 African-Americans to celebrate the end of slavery in New York State.
In a speech that has come to be known as "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July," Douglass, after acknowledging the courage and great aspirational visions embedded in the Declaration of Independence — ratified on July 4, 1776 — said that much more needed to be done so that all citizens can enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"…Fellow-citizens," Douglass continued, "above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them."
Heavy chains yet to be lifted.
"I wouldn't fly the flag on the Fourth of July or any other day," Jackie Robinson said in a 1969 interview with The New York Times. "When I see a car with a flag pasted on it, I figure the guy behind the wheel isn't my friend."
Heavy chains yet to be lifted.
Today, 246 years after ratification, 170 years after Frederick Douglass, 53 years after Jackie Robinson, that day has not yet come, the day has not yet come because those heavy chains are yet to be lifted.
Burdened still with heavy chains, many Americans, myself included, overwhelmed by news of expanded funding for religious schools, approval of maps designed to disenfranchise people of color and minority communities, denials of women's rights and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the stigmatizing of LGBTQIA+ peoples not only wonder whether America will make it to its 250th but whether it will ever fully embrace the aspirations embedded in the Declaration of Independence.
"O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe." - Langston Hughes
Robert Azzi, a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter, can be reached at email@example.com. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Azzi: Listen to Cassidy Hutchinson — and 'mournful wail of millions'