Thank you, Heather, for reminding your readers about the historical thread of political lies, conspiratorial deception and treachery. I have always felt it unfair and dishonest to pardon crimes against the state, while we shrug and forget the millions of mostly low-income folk who are incarcerated for being caught with a few ounces of marijuana.

Expand full comment

Yes Heather, exactly. I served in the U.S. Army for 24.5 years. It galled and shamed me that we still, 1) have so many installations named after notorious, official traitors to our nation and 2) still cater--so openly, overtly, and inappropriately to Southern attitudes of "the Lost Cause," "states rights," etc. (a good friend/mentor, African-American, denied purchase of the official print commemorating his Command and General Staff Class years ago. Why? It was a painting of a conference of Confederate Generals. This is typical symbolism in our Army, a large number of whom are from what is called the North Georgia Military College-Texas Axis. It simply never occurred to his mostly-white fellow officers that such a thing might be deeply offensive. True story) Only now, in the year 2021, have we decided to change that (the Army can be, alternately, amazing progressive and mind-numbingly regressive, depending on the issue). But hey, at least we're doing it.

But to your larger point: this is exactly correct. God willing, if we get past this crisis without bloodshed or further dismantling of our institutions, we MUST purge this--this incredibly-resilient shard of our most-shameful heritage--from our existence, forever. All of its lies (the Lost Cause is a whopper lie, AKA myth. If anyone reads history NOT written by Confederate sympathizers, this is readily apparent), law-breaking and other efforts that threaten--for the second time--to destroy our country. Not on my watch.

Expand full comment

That is why we need brilliant historians - to tease the threads of consequence out of the multifaceted, overwhelming detail of political and social life as it flows forward. Heather, you are superb at this: incisive, articulate, relevant. A searchlight cutting through the mists of the centuries to illuminate the shape of current occurrence.

Not just the historical logic, but the political disparity of footsoldier and leader that bedevils every era of history, and is destorying civility in our current age.

Expand full comment

Let's also recall Nixon's treasonous behavior in 1968, when he used Anna Chennault to get to Nguyen Van Thieu, president of South Vietnam, to scupper the peace talks that Nixon was afraid were about to produce an agreement just before the elections. LBJ had the goods on Nixon and let him know he had the intercepted phone calls, but he decided it would be seen as him being "partisan" in the election if he had exposed Nixon. Then there was Reagan's similar treason with the Iranian ayatollahs during the election campaign, when he had William Casey his future CIA chief go and tell them not to release the embassy hostages before the election and he would "do business" with them.

Republicans have been traitors on foreign policy since Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. sank the League of Nations in the Senate in 1919.

And all of Nixon's small gargoyles, like a college freshman dropout named Karl Rove who was a junior "ratfucker" under Donald Segretti, grew up to be big gargoyles.

Expand full comment

My realization from this remarkable essay this early morning is this - From decades before the pardon of Nixon by President Gerald Ford in 1974, to the removal of the Lee statute this week, I am reminded of the conservative ideology's righteous indignation against the basic and core tenant of America, expressed in the Pledge of Allegiance, "Liberty and Justice for All." Today, as in 1871, progressives act to ensure justice is served against violations of Americans' liberties, as codified by the Ku Klux Klan Act 150 years ago.

As is often stated, we are a nation of laws. Should the highest ranking government employees such as Nixon and Trump and their minions intentionally violate these laws, then there will be no liberty and no justice for all Americans, until justice is served against these perpetrators. Conservatives believe in "freedom from" regulations, taxes and responsibilities, due to their warped notion of libertarianism, the belief that oneself stands above and removed from all others. In reality, we are all inextricably linked in a web of humanity, best summarized by our Pledge of Allegiance.

Expand full comment

Dear HCR -- I am daily in awe of your ability to link historical events providing details to events that I lived through, but never comprehended so clearly as you have presented them. Although I understand the sentiment to just "move on" (after the Civil War, after Watergate, after Iran-Contra), you have made a compelling case that Presidential pardons never let us reckon with history that ought to be reckoned with.

Expand full comment

During much of the Watergate Trial, I had the great good fortune to be taking a high-school civics class taught by a gifted teacher who insisted we make up our own minds about what was going on (thanks Mr Falcione!) My parents were Goldwater Republicans. I lived in a red town in a very red state (now its kind of purple). I could simply have been fed a party line by that teacher. Instead, he forced me to think about the larger picture. My response was to become a life-long Democrat (that led to some lively dinner-time discussions I can tell you!).

Now, most high schools don't even offer civics. I recently read a quote that essentially said "The most effective way to destroy a nation is to destroy its education system". This has been happening in an uneven way across this nation for decades, and has provided fertile ground for the gross manipulations of public opinion we have seen come out of trumpism. Thanks Heather, and thanks fellow readers, for reminding me what a powerful thing an educated, well informed public can be.

Expand full comment

Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America: How The North/South Won The Civil War, 2020, by Heather Cox Richardson. After reading the Letter, I had to go to the book, and I will read it this weekend.

America's choice: Democracy/Equality vs. Autocracy/Subordination.

As much as I have felt the terror of the last five years, reading the Letter this morning put it in black and white, neither calming nor inflaming, just the facts. I believed this abysses could happen even in my preteen years, as I didn't buy into the nation's mythology. America's expansionism, treatment of Native Americans and racism made me a wary and politically active citizen.

Imagining, however, is different than living through the cruelty, the lies, the collapsing values, the immorality and the menace of neighbors, even, for some, with family members. The country is like a grenade or a bomb.

I cannot dwell in the dark for long time, at least, so far. Heather ended the Letter with the statue of Robert E. Lee coming down. I will end this comment with, in my opinion, the most important thing to do -- getting national voting rights legislation passed. Work with voting rights organizations; call and write the President Biden often to let him know how important it is to pass the For the People Act of 2021 and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act now. NOW!


League Of Women Voters

Common Cause

Let America Vote

Spread The Vote

Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian Law Caucus

Rock the Vote

Fair Fight

Expand full comment

Either a man is above the law or he isn't. America cannot truly be exceptional until this loophole of exception is resolved.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Heather, it's good of you to remind us that all this GOP disloyalty and illegality did not begin with McConnell and Trump. Even the -- relatively -- clean Bush senior was in it up to his ears. Reagan should have been impeached over the Iran-Contra illegality, and his underlings should have all gone to jail, and Nixon should have ended up behind bars as well. Republicans think nothing of breaking laws if it will further their political and personal ambitions, and they stick it to entire classes of Americans without guilt.

We Democrats have been generally too forgiving and thick headed about all this.

Expand full comment

Thank you Heather.

Excellent Letter that reminds us that the current BS from the GOP is not new. They have been vested in this deceit for decades.

I can remember, at the time, thinking that what Ford did in pardoning Nixon was for the good of the Nation. Little did I know that act would give the GOP a lifetime of " get/stay out of jail free" cards.

Everything old is new again ........

Be safe, be well.

Expand full comment

In agreement with Colbert, Lee’s horse “Traveler” was worthy of remaining standing to honor the brutal sacrifice of horses and livestock in the conflict between men.

Expand full comment

Only in America is okay for a Republican President to plan, conspire, and perpetuate a violent coup with minions and Congress critters.

Only in America is it okay for a Republican President’s to lie, cheat, and steal.

Only in America is it okay for a President to direct minions to illegally sell weapons to our enemies, enemies that use terrorism such as suicide truck bombers to attack our Marine barracks while on a peace keeping mission.

All will be forgiven, even if Confederate. Just claim that you are playing “Cowboy”. PR your fascist power abusing tactics as “cowboyism”. The public will fall for it. Don’t say it or claim it, better to just act the part. The public will rationalize your Cowboyism. The public will admire your Cowboyism. Time and time again, the public will forgive the Cowboy.


Expand full comment

Heather, this is among your VERY BEST "Letters from an American" posts. Colleges and universities would do well to create a new survey history course made-up of just reading and discussing all of your inciteful and sometimes profound posts ! Thank you; Thank you; Thank you.

Expand full comment

"For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary. An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement. Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands. Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again."

This is something that most Republicans and those who vote for them fail to understand and about which HCR has written today. The words are those of former Canadian Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff and are from an op-ed piece published in the New York Times in October of 2013. They are true today, and understanding them is necessary "for democracies to work." (which are the first four words of the piece.) Republicans do not understand them.

Expand full comment

If the insurrectionists are not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law now, including the former president, will our children be forced to live with statues of “Oath Keepers” in place of confederate ones?

Expand full comment