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A Time for Heroes

Bucks County's Joe Sundeen reviews Liz Cheney's "Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning."

I recently participated in a discussion on the subject of heroes: What does the word actually mean? What actions or people do I personally consider to be heroic? Are there any heroes today? Do I, or us as a species, need heroes?

This discussion came in the wake of the premature death, or rather murder, of Russian dissident Alexsei Navalny, a person who personifies for me most attributes of my own description of a true hero – one who puts the welfare of others ahead of their own, who voluntarily steps forward from the line of ordinary people to speak truth, who perseveres in the face of overwhelming odds, and accepts that they may not be ultimately be successful but are determined to carry on and perhaps make the ultimate sacrifice, of public support and perhaps of even life itself.

History provides examples of these rare individuals, and it is perhaps too easy to trivialize their heroism by putting them in a superhuman category which we contend that as individuals we could never attain and to which we rationalize that we need not aspire. But these rare people are just human beings who have somehow reached into the depths of their being and listened to the call for action. 

Navalny has paid with his life. Former Congresswoman Liz Cheney has paid with her career and the approbation of her colleagues in the Republican Party, who have turned viciously, and even violently, against her because she had the determination to speak truth to power. She hasn’t as yet been faced with imprisonment, but given the current inclinations of her erstwhile colleagues, that may yet be in her future.

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Her book, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, provides an illuminating picture of the hazards of speaking truth. It is a view of the pressures and backdrop of the frantic efforts of the Republican Party to whitewash the events of January 6, 2021, and discredit and punish anyone, even a life-long conservative Republican, who should venture to say that the Emperor Has No Clothes and should be held accountable for his actions.

The history of the events leading up to the cataclysm of that date, and the aftermath which haunts us all to this day, may seem to be unnecessary to recount. But the inside look which Ms. Cheney uniquely provides makes the reading of the book worthwhile in every respect. This review does not attempt to recount the details, but anyone who cares about where our country could be headed without a firm course correction in one of our two great political parties needs to be reminded, again and again, of how high the stakes are.

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This is not a game of Gotcha Politics, or who can score the most points in a rally of the faithful. We need to take the threat deadly seriously. It is a call for other Republicans, especially the leaders in Congress, to step forward, to join Liz Cheney as she has stepped forward and put herself in the line of fire. Representatives like Brian Fitzpatrick in the House, could take a cue from Cheney, and the likes of Senator Lankford of Oklahoma. As the Dictator in Waiting once told Black Americans, “What have you got to lose?” 

Maybe Mr. Fitzpatrick would lose some donations from deep pockets MAGA fanatics. But I would ask him, “What have you got to gain, if you lose your own soul?”

Please read the book and remember.

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Joe Sundeen

Joe Sundeen

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