Editor's note: Rev. Dr. Chuck Queen, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church delivered the following address at Together Frankfort's Impeachment Eve rally Tuesday at the Old Capitol.
A great spiritual teacher, prophet and reformer said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” There are some in power in our country who apparently do not want us to be free, because they do not want us to know the truth.
Of all the talk of this president about greatness, he doesn’t really have a clue about what it is that makes our nation great. And it would seem, as well, that his allies in Congress do not understand what it is that makes us great.
What makes us great is our commitment to values grounded in the truth of who we are as human beings — values of liberty, equality, fairness and justice for all. What makes us great is our readiness to uphold these values and our commitment to pursue practices and policies that advance these values — values laid out in our Constitution.
From the day he took office, and actually many days before he took office, this president has disparaged these values. His tweets and his inflammatory speech stoke fear and spread hate. The fruit on a tree tells you what kind of tree it is. Consider some of the fruit.
This president has set in motion policies that treat with disgust and disdain those seeking asylum in this country and others seeking a safe place to raise their families. He has separated children from their parents and many of these children may never be reunited with parents. Many are held in detention centers that are more like prison camps.
He seeks to remove all protections from the Dreamers — persons who were brought here as children through no choice of their own, many of whom are students in our colleges, faithful workers in all areas of American life, tax payers, some have served and are serving in our military. Most have been constructive members of our country. This president would make them scapegoats and send them back to countries they do not know, many of whom do not even speak the language — with no money, no job, no support, and no hope.
Every day this president spews forth ugliness in tweet after tweet after tweet. His ego is so fragile that he demeans and dehumanizes anyone who criticizes him.
A president is given much power, and when a president takes office, regardless of whether he or she is Democrat or Republican, we pray and hope that the president will use that power to uphold and advance the values of liberty, equality and justice for all. We hope that as a nation we will be a beacon on a hill for our own people and people around the world. Our president has so misused and abused his power that our allies have lost faith in us.
The nations of the world have typically looked to us for leadership in combating the problem of climate change, which is putting our planet in ever increasing peril. And what does our president do? He denies the clear and obvious scientific truth of climate change and has rolled back environmental protections necessary to preserve our ecosystem from pollution and destruction. The enlightened youth of the world, like Greta Thunberg, Time’s Person of the Year, understand this threat. We would expect any decent President to applaud and celebrate her courage and activism? But our president is so small, so little that he has to demean and denigrate her.
Yes, the president of our country has great power and can use that power for good or ill. And it is no surprise when a self-absorbed emotionally, spiritually and psychologically sick person in power wields that power in sick ways. However, our Constitution sets limits on the president’s power, and this president has crossed those limits — blatantly without remorse or regret. President Trump really does believe he is above the law.
As a minister and simply as a citizen of this country I felt it my duty to listen to every single testimony in the impeachment hearings conducted by the House. Every witness — 12 in all — added their own details to corroborate the same story that documents the president’s flagrant abuse of power for personal gain. The facts were clear. For the sole purpose of gaining political advantage he withheld financial security assistance to Ukraine and a White House meeting much sought by Ukraine’s president Zelensky in exchange for announcing an investigation into the Bidens and the debunked theory of possible corruption by Ukraine in the 2016 election. He held hostage a foreign power in great need of American support in their war with Russia for his own personal and political benefit and profit.
This president has been tireless in his efforts to “hollow out from within” the institutions in our country that protect our democracy. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to know that we still have professional, nonpartisan civil servants, who, at great personal cost, were willing to tell the truth and defy the orders of President Trump, who has been relentless in his attempt to obstruct Congress’s investigation and the pursuit of truth at every turn.
What I can’t understand is why so many of our elected representatives who know better are so attached to this president and their own partisan agenda that they are willing to put our very democracy in peril. Bill Moyers, an award-winning journalist and a man of great integrity, said recently in an interview that for the first time in his long life — including the Great Depression and World War II — he feared for the nation's survival. He said, "A society, a democracy, can die of too many lies, and we are close to the terminal moment." Moyers is not an alarmist or sensationalist by any stretch.
In a recent article for the New York Times, columnist Michelle Goldberg described what many of us are struggling with as “democracy grief.” And it is very real as many of you know. There are days I struggle to sustain hope. But I can tell you this. It is folks like you and communities like Together Frankfort across this country that serve to fan the flame of hope. So I say to you, sisters and brothers, keep standing for the truth, keep organizing for the truth, keep protesting for the truth, and folks like me will, as best we can, keep proclaiming the truth, because it is the truth that will set us free!
Rev. Dr. Chuck Queen is pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church. He can be emailed at email@example.com.