The Cliffs of Insanity

Published: December 17, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
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There’s a scene in the movie, The Princess Bride, where the undaunted hero—with all the kindness, smartness, and decency required of heroes—is doing what heroes do: saving his beloved Buttercup from kidnappers. At one point, he chases them to the Cliffs of Insanity, a rocky crag so high and so treacherous it makes Yosemite’s El Capitan look like a picnic. (Of course, since this is a fictional, romantic, adventure movie, he safely reaches the top and saves his beloved.)

However, Washington’s insanity is very much real, but the cliffs are a perfect metaphor for both sides of the aisle. One tribe is struggling up an insanely high wall of cowardice and tenacious lies to keep afloat the country’s democratic principles.

The other tribe, however, defies logic.

The Washington minions of a former leader, (let’s call him Prince Humperdinck in keeping with the malicious chief in Bride)—who claims he was unfairly and illegally ousted by a vote of the people—continues to gaslight 60 percent of his followers that, yes the election was stolen and he and his acolytes will continue to work to see him return as the head of a land where the law, the Constitution and common sense were once respected by both tribes and the people.

Sadly, this is not a tale where all’s well that ends well. It’s a story of two clans who are supposed to work together, as they should, for the people they purportedly represent. One side offers compromise. The other, relentless resistance. One side says, wait till next year! The other side is trying to find something called, “bi . . . part . . . i . . . san . . . ship,” (In our current context, I’m not sure I know what that means), but anyway, you get the picture. There’s a BIG problem going on.

However, there is a small sliver of hope. The heroine in our story, let’s call her, Liz, and our hero, Adam, are trying their best to do the right thing for ALL the people and the Constitution they took an oath to defend, but have been branded traitors by members of their party and a vocal minority of supporters because they were selected as committee members to investigate a violent attack on the Capitol and the principles of a democratic republic.

“We are one nation under God,” Liz Cheney publicly stated. “The Framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics — and they knew that our daily arguments could become so fierce that we might lose track of our most important obligation — to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans. . . . When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics. . ..

“Almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were. One Republican, for example, said: ‘What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is unacceptable and un-American. Those participating in lawlessness and violence must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.’ No Member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct this investigation, or whitewash what happened that day. We must act with honor and duty, and in the interest of our nation.”

“We need answers and we need accountability,” Committee member Adam Kinzinger said, “and the only way to get that is a full investigation and understanding of what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Such an investigation should include a serious look at the misinformation campaigns and their origins, the lies being perpetuated by leaders — including by former President Donald Trump — and what impact such false narratives had on the events leading up to and following Jan. 6. We need to be fearless about understanding the motivations of our fellow Americans, even if it makes us uncomfortable about the truth of who they are and the truth of who played what role in inspiring them.

“The work of this committee needs to be a nonpartisan effort. It cannot continue to be a partisan fight, where we’re taking every opportunity to discredit each other for perceived political points or fund-raising efforts. The childish mudslinging is not helpful and damages the already fragile integrity of our institutions. I urge all of my colleagues — as well as the American people — to unplug the rage machine and see this situation through clear eyes: America was attacked, and we deserve to know why and how it happened.

“If we fail to do this — and do this right — I will have serious doubts about what the future looks like for America and our democracy. . . . We need to restore some trust in this country . . .”

When will the insanity end?

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