Republicans, don’t you want to be free?

Leonard Pitts, syndicated columnist

Dear Republicans:

That’s what a free woman looks like.

Meaning, of course, Cassidy Hutchinson, a young former aide in Donald Trump’s White House, who appeared before the House committee investigating the attempted coup of Jan. 6. Free of the need to defend the indefensible or rationalize the irrational — free, in other words, of Trump — she simply told what she saw and heard before and as rioters stormed the seat of the U.S government. Hutchinson was a poised and effective witness, and her testimony painted damning, indelible images.

Like the ketchup dripping down the wall of the Oval Office dining room, the porcelain plate lying in shards on the floor, in the aftermath of a presidential temper tantrum.

Like Trump angrily demanding removal of the “effing” magnetometers set up to keep people with weapons from entering his pre-riot rally on the Ellipse. (“I don’t care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.”)

Like Trump physically assailing the head of his Secret Service detail — there are reports that the agent disputes this — when they refused to ferry him to the chaos at the Capitol.

Like Hutchinson’s boss, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, passively scrolling through his cellphone as Hutchinson and others brought increasingly urgent bulletins of barricades breached and windows smashed.

Does it even need to be said that Donald Trump issued statements on that jackleg social media site of his claiming none of it happened, saying that he hardly knows who Hutchinson is, dubbing her a “whacko”?

Unfortunately for Trump, she didn’t seem the least bit “whacko.” She just seemed free.

Republicans, wouldn’t you like to be free? How many years has it been since each of you was your own man or woman, unfettered by the burden of lies, alibis and pretending not to see?

This is, of course, an apropos time to talk about freedom. Between cookouts and fireworks displays, we are celebrating our Founders, who declared themselves free of Britain 246 years ago. Which is not to suggest the men who signed our Declaration of Independence were perfect. Far from it. Most, after all, were traders in human flesh. But give them this much: They had the courage of their convictions. They had the courage to be free, though they knew the cost might be ruinous.

In answering the call of conscience by signing their names to that revolutionary document, men like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Richard Stockton put at risk their personal liberty, their livelihoods and their lives. Now conscience calls again. Indeed, conscience screams. Yet so many of you, even at this late date, answer with silence. Because to do otherwise — to do the right thing — is to make Trump mad, and heaven knows, you don’t want that.

But when you consider what the founding generation stood to lose in service to this country and what they did anyway, then compare it to what you stand to lose and what you’ve done, well, let’s just say the portrait of you that emerges is not flattering.

Wouldn’t you like to be free?

As Hutchinson’s testimony made vividly, if redundantly, clear, you are led by a monstrous, unstable child. How can you have greater loyalty to him than to your country? Or to yourselves? In signing that revolutionary document, those men declared themselves independent — free — from the tyranny of a selfish and oppressive king.

Why won’t you do the same?

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.


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