Too Powerful to Play Fair

My favorite TV show of all time, and one of my favorite stories committed to film, is the series “Foyle’s War.” Besides the high quality of production, it is a show of likable characters, quiet dialogue, and gentle cheesiness. It is a tone and set of stories that are easy to return to and rewatch again and again. Yet the show is a murder series, and it does not take its murders lightly. Moreover it takes upon itself the serious question and theme: how do you execute justice against power? The backdrop of this murder series is not ordinary time, but British homeland defense during WWII. When your country is hanging in the balance, how do you hold it’s power holders accountable?

So let’s talk about this impeachment hearing in this Year of Our Lord, 2019.

There is a sense of futility when talking about the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. General apathy expects it to go down strict party lines, so that Democrat-majority Congress will impeach Trump but the Republican-majority Senate will not remove him from office. With this predicted futility the conclusion that people draw is that this is all a matter of optics, of expensive grandstanding to posture for the upcoming election. Then follows a dismissal of the need to follow or care about the case at all, though the apathy expressed is in itself deeply emotional, whether contempt or despair. Most of the people in my social circle do think that Trump is a highly unethical person who is guilty, but think that either A) it doesn’t matter so long as he’s useful to their pet causes, or B) it doesn’t matter because justice cannot be affected at that level.

And so my mind returns to Foyle’s War. When you look at the entire series, it is rather comical to inventory all the important events and people Foyle and Co. find themselves in contact with: MI6, anthrax researchers, politicians, big businessmen. By the end of each episode, the story escalates to the question: who is too important to face the consequences of justice? Sometimes the murderer is a member of an important team, too valuable to the greater cause he is serving to be held accountable. Though such immunity never comes at Foyle’s hands, the show teaches the failings of granting such immunity. Sometimes the murderer is someone who was denied justice because the other involved party was Too Important. The hurt and anger caused by injustice cycles forward to hurt more people, or the perpetrator who feels immune goes on to more crimes. Foyle’s War is didactic escapism at heart. It shows a man who is always right endorsing a path of individual accountability and disrupting the cycles of injustice. And I like the show because, besides its pleasant characters and sincere tone, I do agree with the need for basic levels of justice and want to feel inspired by a paragon who embodies it.

So perhaps, you might think, the reason that this has come to my mind is because I worry that President Trump is being treated as too important to be held to justice. I do see in our president deeply immoral and dishonorable character. I see in him an immunity that has historically come through money and now has snowballed to include politicism. Yet I have not listened to the proceedings or directly appraised the mechanical soundness of this particular case. No, My return to Foyle’s War was not spawned by thoughts of Trump. Instead, my musings upon Foyle’s War were spawned by the White House staff who have been subpoenaed but have refused to answer. Their claim? That their work is Too Important for them to spare the time to testify. Subpoenas have been issued, but not answered. For any citizen in my level of society, that would be punishable as a contempt. Yet for these men, they are simply Too Important to be bothered with participating in the full standard of the law.

Just attempting to write this blog post (which is more a stub by my standard) alone has emotionally exhausted me. There are so many tributaries feeding into this river that I cannot trace them in a focused manner. Instead, I just will remember the didactic fantasy of Foyle’s War, of that sense of justice that evaluates men at the practical level. For what Foyle’s War also holds in view is that without this grip of justice, even at the highest stakes, it doesn’t matter if you win the war –you’ve lost what you were fighting for.

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