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Why am I addicted to the impeachment hearings? I’m not even American? | Rosa Lyster | Opinion


It’s important to begin by saying that I don’t understand the impeachment process. I don’t know how many steps there are, or if what’s happening now should even be considered by a layperson as part of the impeachment process proper, or how whoever it is that’s in charge is meant to make any sort of headway with a group of people who have long ago abandoned the notion that there exists such a thing as consensus reality, or what the worst-case scenario is, or how it even happens that you get so many men in the same room who are almost completely physically indistinguishable from one another.

It’s been a just over a week of public hearings, and they have already taken on an air of opacity that I know will only become more impenetrable over time. How long will that time be? It’s impossible to find out. I heard a man on the radio the other day saying that if things went as well as they possibly could, he expected the whole business to wind up, maybe, in “the spring”, which seemed a much more mysterious and arcane way of putting it than simply saying “in six months’ time”, like it was dependent on a successful harvest.

Needless to say, he did not go into any meaningful level of detail in his description of what “things going well” would look like. He certainly did not say what I was hoping he would, which was: “At the end of all this, Donald Trump will be in jail. Ahahaha.”

None of that. Just mounting contingencies, and then rhetorical questions that are not necessarily as edifying as one might wish them to be. When Congressman Adam Schiff asks a question such as, “If that’s not an impeachable offence, then what is?” I know there are millions of people around this world nodding sagely at their televisions. There have to be at least some people, however, who had the same response that I did, which was: I don’t know, Adam Schiff, you tell me. Please, Adam Schiff: just tell me what exactly constitutes an impeachable offence, and what the exact rules are, and I will definitely believe you.

I do not beat myself up for these failures of comprehension. It would be weird, I think, if I understood it all from top to bottom, because it is objectively hard to follow, and there are people much more switched on than I am who go a bit vague when asked to explain just what exactly it is that’s going on here. Also, I am not an American, and the extent to which I have become invested in the whole thing is weird enough already. It goes well beyond just the normal activity known as keeping abreast of a news story of obvious global significance. I missed that clearly marked exit point a long time ago, and now here I am barrelling down the freeway of being way too interested in the impeachment process, with no offramp in sight.

Here I am, knowing who Gordon Sondland is and staring avidly at pictures of Mick Mulvaney like I’m going to have to file a missing person’s report on him at some point. Waking up my boyfriend at 6am to ask him what he thinks of Marie Yovanovitch’s lovely speaking voice, does he think her and Ambassador Bill Taylor are friends, does he agree that “Keith Kellogg” sounds like a made-up name. Here I am behaving as if I have a long and weary familiarity with the attitudes and behaviours of a whole lot of people I had never heard of until a week ago. And I am doing this of my own volition! No one is forcing me to be reading three separate blow-by-blow accounts of what Kurt Volker said and what it might mean, or should mean, or could mean. But here I am.

It’s embarrassing, and possibly borderline pathetic. Not only am I not an American – I’m a South African. One of the definitive features of the country I live in is that there is an extraordinary amount of news happening, all the time. We have news coming out of our ears, down here. There’s always a story that demands total attention, always a good reason to be reading the paper for six hours and making loud worried noises while you do it. It is therefore ridiculous for me to be keeping such a beady eye on the impeachment process, especially when there is clearly so much more still to come.

The US’s always expanding sense of itself as the centre of the universe – not just the best country in the world but the only country in the world – is quite obviously a bad thing for the rest of us. Recently, I saw a South African acquaintance on Facebook post something about welcoming the hearings because “this man cannot be our president”. (The acquaintance has not, as far as I know, so much as visited the US.) I didn’t see anyone pointing out in the comments that Donald Trump was not, in fact, the president of South Africa, but perhaps they recognised that he was too far gone for that. Perhaps they didn’t even notice. As a person who just spent a cool 20 minutes raking through Yovanovitch’s Wikipedia page, I am certainly in no position to criticise such lapses in judgment.

I can fully see that I am part of the problem and am fuelling the already out-of-control fire that is American exceptionalism by even thinking about all this as much as I do. It’s very difficult to stop, though, especially knowing there is so much more of it to come, so many questions yet to be asked, and so many different ways to feel utterly confounded by every last aspect of the process.

Rosa Lyster is a writer who lives in Cape Town


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