There is a scene in the film Jojo Rabbit where young Jojo and his mother (Scarlett Johansson) come upon members of the anti-Nazi resistance who have been hanged in the town square. "What did they do?" Jojo asks. "What they could," his mother tells him.
Yesterday evening people rallied in towns and cities across the country to call for the impeachment and removal of a president who has abused his power and betrayed his oath of office. Tens of thousands showed up at more than six hundred events. Attendance was less than at the huge Women's Marches after the inauguration and the big climate and gun control demonstrations. Nonetheless, the turnout was significant, bearing in mind that the events were organized on short notice to be held on the eve of the House vote on impeachment.
Thousands gathered in the cold at the north end of Portland's Waterfront Park (Donald Orr, Portland Protesters Call For Impeachment, Removal Of President Trump, Oregon Public Broadcasting). A musical opening act was entertaining the already sizable crowd when I arrived at 5:15 for the event slated to run 5:30 to 7:30. The music aside, it was not a festive occasion.
My sense is that demonstrators came out of a sense of patriotism, civic responsibility, and the moral imperative to speak out and stand up for the rule of law. Many held signs, almost all of them in keeping with the gravity of the moment. Only a few bore the unfortunately predictable reference to Hitler or coarse, juvenile epithets that the president has certainly earned but that do not contribute to our cause.
The rally kicked off with familiar call-and-response chants. Passing motorists showed their support with horn blasts greeting sign-holders along Naito Parkway on the west side of the park. The speakers I heard were earnest but offered little beyond a rehash of the usual talking points. I could not help but note with a bit of sadness the absence of lofty and uplifting rhetoric calling on our better selves to rise to the challenges of a dark time and perhaps even sacrifice for the common good. Maybe that was not needed on an evening when everyone knew why they were there. Maybe someone will rise up to provide it.
I doubt that many were under any illusion that our efforts would have an effect on today's impeachment vote in the House or the trial in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee, have declared in no uncertain terms that the outcome is predetermined.
They came anyway, in the belief that the principles upon which the nation was founded, those principles we were taught in school and once believed in with touching naïvté, still mean something. They came as I came to do what they could on this cold, wintry night and because they are in it not just for this one night but for the long haul.
We do what we can. Keep the faith.