When I was born in the 1960s, the United States and its allies — led by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada — were locked in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations, a divide splitting Europe with the world in the balance. That was more relevant to me as a military brat, born on an Army base, moving every few years wherever my father was assigned.
In 1971 we moved to Patch Barracks, then home to the U.S. European Command, near Stuttgart, Germany.
For four years, when Dad had time off, we traveled all over western Europe in our small trailer, camping in France or Italy. I learned to ski in Austria. Along the way I also learned about the history of those places.
My parents did not sugar-coat. We went to Dachau. We explored among the ruins of the Maginot Line, the French fortifications that failed to block the German invasion in World War II. We took a special bus across East Germany to West Berlin. The Wall dividing Berlin — and the East and West in its existential struggle–was fully operational, guarded with frightening men at machine guns, staring down from towers.
And as I grew older, away from childhood, I became an activist. I started in the peace movement in the 1980s, angry about Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. I found my voice, and my belief that we should work to be better. That the promise of America is not yet, and will never be, fully realized, unless people are engaged all the time, to make it so.
I was not blind to the deep sins of my nation, its present or past, its roots in slavery and genocide that bear toxic fruits of injustice and oppression today. But I was glad to see the Wall come down and Europe reunited as the 1990s arrived.
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The other day, 30 years past that and almost 50 since I looked up at the Wall’s gun towers or peered into the gas chambers at Dachau, I watched a montage of prime ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Boris Johnson of Britain, and French President Emmanuel Macron, all condemning the attempted coup on the Capitol launched at the urging and on behalf of President Trump. And I was slammed with a crazy, unsettling mix of emotions.
At first I was grateful. “Thank you!” I thought. But that was followed straightaway with something like heartbreak. How far we have come to be thankful our allies stand with democracy when our own president does not.
We have always been far from perfect. But patriotism to me was never about loyalty to a leader. It was always about commitment to the ideal, yet unrealized, that we can be better. That belief still drives my activism and fuels both my displeasure oftentimes with, and my deep love for always, America.
Which is why I think Rep. Lauren Boebert needs to resign, and if she won’t I believe that the U.S House of Representatives must remove her.
My life, and history, has taught me that democracy is fragile. It’s always an incomplete project. But it has boundaries, it has agreements. As conservatives used to say (back in the day when being one meant something), America is a “republic, not a democracy.” This is a bit of a semantic dance, because the seat of power remains the people. We are a democratic republic.
In any case, we are not a mob, and we settle elections by counting votes. Those votes are tabulated according to laws of states which can then be challenged by candidates at the election level and in state and federal courts.
Then, once certified by the state, and per our federal system (another bit of foundational America which conservatives once championed), it is the vote that establishes who we, the people, choose as our representatives.
What Rep. Boebert did – both in mounting a challenge during a pro-forma reading of electoral votes, cast in a state she does not represent at that; and in her boisterous ongoing defense of what has been called the “Big Lie” about the election even in the face of deadly insurrection – is indefensible.
It is not politicians who get to decide, regardless how strongly they feel about a party leader or how sad about a loss.
What Lauren Boebert attempted to do, most likely for show and perhaps mostly unaware of what she was actually engaged in, was anti-democratic and an affront to our republican form of government. These are guaranteed in our federal and state constitutions and she is in violation of her oath.
Boebert has no business sitting as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and should resign or be removed.
Pete Kolbenschlag, a climate and rural activist, has lived for more than 20 years in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
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