American democracy is not perfect. It is a dynamic, aspirational, experiment that continues to perfect itself. Wittingly or unwittingly, I credit the Founding Fathers (and, yes, they were all males) for constructing a sound theology of people – they made a foundational assumption that people are inherently flawed and susceptible to corruption, and that power is dangerous when in the grasp of corrupt people. With that fundamental assumption, they crafted an adversarial Constitution of checks and balances by separating the 3 branches of government. We have seen this system work within the innate ideological divide and antagonism in American society. Sometimes it falters, most of the time it is virtuous in the pursuit. All in all it is a system that, thankfully, has the inner capacity to correct itself.
In my lifetime there have been four salutary moments in its history when the elasticity of this system was put under severe strain. From the Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon; the Iran-Contra affair during the administration of Ronald Reagan; the sexual misconduct of Bill Clinton; and now the percolating scandal of Donald Trump. In all of these junctions in the history of American politics, the system goes through a painful – and at times dangerous – epileptic convulsion. Yet in all cases the system corrects itself.
My professional background began in the health care and medical field before my journey into theology and ministry. That experience has constructed important scaffoldings in the cognitive apparatus that frames my perspective, and continues to serve as a source of helpful rational models for me. The Michael Cohen testimony before the Congressional House Oversight Committee yesterday conjured up such a model. That public testimony was yet another convulsive moment that reminded me of a helpful imagery that I have gleaned from my years in the health care field. A boil has once again festered in the American body politic. Cohen’s testimony was like lancing a boil or an abscess – a painful procedure to drain pus and detritus out of an infection. It is a necessary procedure to cleanse out pathological organisms in a confined pocket of infection in order to promote its treatment and healing.
My hope is, as proven by its previous ailments, that American democracy will once again heal itself. And may we all be participants in that healing and restoration.