testimony by former FBI director James Comey.For the most part, committee members were serious, prepared and non-partisan - provided numerous powerful moments as role models for all citizens.
A key point to emerge from Comey's testimony: The US intelligence
community reported with high confidence that Russians meddled in the US
elections, with the release of false news and attempts to breach state
electoral systems. US President Donald Trump has dismissed these reports.
But not Comey, who testified: "... we’re talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it."
Our response to Comey's testimony and ongoing conduct in Washington DC will shape our system for years to come. Do we want the young, our future leaders, to learn that lying, bullying, manipulation, false narratives and framing, obsequiousness in the workplace, misplaced priorities and loyalties are normal?
Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia, was thoughtful: "what details of this saga ... should we be focusing on, and what would you recommend us do differently?"
Comey's response: "I don’t know. I - and one of the reasons that I’m pleased to be here is I think this committee has shown the American people, although we have two parties and we disagree about important things, we can work together when it involves the core interests of the country. So I would hope you’ll just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s - it’s good in and of itself, but it’s also a model, especially for kids, that we - we are a functioning, adult democracy."
One of the great challenges of parenting is to raise children with integrity, critical thinkers who strive to do what's right even when the powers over us - whether political leaders, corporations or elders in our family - do the opposite.
Fear of Beauty, set in Afghanistan, examines the dilemma for parents at the local level as extremists with bullying ways move into the small community, trying to whip up anger against a nearby American outpost. It offers lessons in recognizing the extremists in our midst. Some are belligerent, bullying and obvious con men with endless promises. Others are more subtle. Both types try to attack strong education systems that promote independent and critical thinking. They fear new ideas, the comparisons and choices, and even curiosity and questions. They promote the importance of a few individuals over the comment good. They employ distractions and whip up irrational fear. Among the young, they rely on favoritism and resentment to train others to be followers of twisted ideologies. And they lie repeatedly and expect others to support these lies.
Sofi, the protagonist in Fear of Beauty and mother who yearns to learn how to read, resents a the belligerent militant intimidating her remote village in Afghanistan, and she realizes that transparency is crucial: "In plan sight, the man could not commit evil." As a woman, her opinion carries little weight and she hunts for ways to resist, concluding there is "no doubt that obeying a tyrant like Jahangir, his evil plans and ruthless control of others, is as much a crime as devising those plans."
Sofi comes to realize that children learn if their society offers comparisons that can be observed and studied - what systems, people, attitudes and approaches work best and produce the most good in daily life.
Sofi may be illiterate, but her children never have any doubt about her values and opinions for the extremists in their village - and the villages who collude with them - as a dangerous threat.
And Comey stresses the same and points to why Russian leaders fear democracy; "It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them, and so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain - as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill, and they don’t like it."
Comey made it clear that he longed for a special counsel to take over the investigation, and he offers hope that a quest for justice and truth will continue at the FBI:
"The organization’s great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.... this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration.... I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent."
It's a warning to any who seek to subvert justice and deny truth.
Tuesday, November 18
Farfetched? Not really.
"Six-hundred people were charged today for the gruesome murder of a Pakistani Christian couple accused of desecrating the Quran in Punjab province," reports the Economic Times in India. The man and his pregnant wife, in their 30s and parents of four, were beaten and burned alive in a brick kiln where they worked after announcements in "two mosques of the village that Shahzad and his wife had committed blasphemy by burning pages of the holy Quran."
Entire families take on debt to work in such kilns. "According to the U.N., 21 percent of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line and some are left with no choice but to take out loans in exchange for labor," reports the Borgen Project, which urges global leaders to make endign poverty a priority. "These loans can have very high interest rates, creating a cycle of bonded labor. Workers labor in the hot sun to pay off their debt and, many times, their family’s debt, which can be passed down through the generations."
Lies can be a form of self-defense or a motive for murder.
Photo courtesy of the Borgen Project.