December 7, 2019

A Moment of Pride

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch returns for additional questioning after a break while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the second impeachment hearing held by the committee, House Democrats continue to build a case against U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to link U.S. military aid for Ukraine to the nation’s investigation of his political rivals. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I didn’t think I was addicted to junk food, but as David Suissa has pointed out, the news has become the new Dorito or for me, a distasteful flavored potato chip; bitter, nasty, shameful, revengeful, and oh so indecent. For those of us who try to live the Jewish values of integrity, truth, and righteousness, it is almost impossible to not react and be mesmerized by the overwhelming cultural standards Mr. Trump enacts on a moment to moment basis, supported by paid officials – Republican House members and Senators, themselves seemingly hypnotized by distortion and lies, like a member of a cult. It’s astonishing to watch while being enveloped in the eye of this hurricane that constantly swirls around us, holding us in its destructive force. I hope that such misplaced loyalty will come back to haunt them.

Yet, for a moment, on Friday, Nov. 15, I felt pride and joy as I watched an intelligent, honorable, prideful, and honest woman face the world, despite her fear, to tell her story. Thirty-three years of dedicated service to our country, including terrifying situations where her physical being was most importantly the president (small ‘p’ on purpose). Confidently she owned her vast experience and skill, asking a simple question. “Why did the president have to smear her, when he could have just told her to leave her position?” Of course, not one Republican was willing to answer this simple question. Restating over and over again that the president had the power and position to choose whoever he wished to serve him, something she herself acknowledged, not one of them would address her simple query. 

How many times have we been reminded that Judaism abhors shaming someone in public, as Talmud describes (San 107a) it is if ones’’ face literally loses its color, turning white Ambassador Yovanovitch herself explained, after reading the letter dismissing her and hearing of the smear campaign, that witnesses observed the color of her face drained away. With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often passed to future generations from those who suffered the trauma from either Nazi and Communist regimes, it isn’t hard to empathize with this Diplomat and her response to being abused verbally and subtly (perhaps not so subtly) threatened. As she said, “I felt intimidated.” To read, “that things could happen to her,” felt, ominously, not so good. Being beautiful, talented, skilled and most importantly respected must have been quite threatening to Mr. Trump. The best he could do was, smear her reputation. How sad is that.

Marie Yovanovitch is a hero to me. So are the many public servants who are willing to defy White House orders and come forward to tell the truth, something alien to this administration. It is heartening to know, and witness, that America still has legs to stand on. Whether politically correct or not, impeachment is what this president deserves. His arrogance and hubris must be responded to. 

As Thanksgiving approaches we must hearken back to the courage and risk-taking of those who left countries where leaders like Trump believed they were above the law and could do whatever they wished at the expense of their peoples’ freedom and safety. These mavericks led the way to the creation of this country, which embraced freedom and the pursuit of happiness for any and all. 

Thank you, Marie Yovanovich, for being a woman of courage and integrity and role modeling for all, young and old, what it means to be honest, courageous and live with dignity.

Rabbi and Cantor Eva Robbins