My grandfather was 4’11” tall. From a shtetl someplace in Belarus. When he came to the United States, he worked as a Hebrew teacher, a milkman, a factory worker. He joined Workers of the World. He and his brother moved to Cleveland and got jobs in a plumbing supply company. And when World War 1 began, Grandpa refused to register for the draft. Not because he wasn’t willing to take on the danger, but because he believed he had more in common with fellow workers across the world than he had with those leaders who wanted to enlist young men to kill each other. He didn’t buy into the morality of fighting to the death against other working men, regardless of their nationality.
It was only a symbolic act. He was too short and wouldn’t have been accepted into military service anyway. But he wanted to make the point. He wanted to reject the war rather than wait for the war to reject him. The infraction landed him in jail for a year. He was fine with the jail sentence; he knew it was a consequence of his own actions and he was willing to pay the price. In prison he learned English and, at the suggestion of Emma Goldman, became a lawyer. He attended Fordham Law School as a special student, having never gone to high school or university. He graduated, passed the New York bar on his first try and set up his law practice.
He has always been my favorite member of my family; he was my hero, my teacher and my safe haven. He set the standard for courage.
So when I look at the sleazy lack of courage in the Senate today, I’m ashamed and disgusted. Who cares if you lose an election? Are you really willing to lie? Are you so corrupted by your privilege that you would abandon any pretense of a moral compass?
Being a senator isn’t the only job in the world. Surely you know how to do other things. And it’s hard to respect people who put their temp jobs ahead of principles.