Much news and many comments have been written and spoken concerning the recent news conference held by Mr. Gabriel Sterling, an election official in Georgia. Mr. Sterling spoke passionately about threats that he and other officials had received because of President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election in Georgia and other states. Mr. Sterling called out the President and his supporters for the verbal and printed violence that President Trump, US Senators, and others were complacently supporting. Mr. Sterling said that someone was going to be killed if the assault on the election continued.
When I watched Mr. Sterling during the conference, I was struck by his “powerfully felt emotion” as Wordsworth wrote about poetry not politics. However, Sterling’s force passionately showed his deep concern for the safety of election workers and our democracy. His plea for leadership from President Trump and Senators and others called them out. It asked them, including the present senators from Georgia, to step up and show leadership.
But has Sterling not heard President Trump these last four years? From the beginning Trump has lied and not accepted responsibility. One of his chief advisers told us early on in his term of office that there were “alternate facts.” Did Sterling not hear President Trump malign Latino immigrants as thugs and rapists and murderers? Was Sterling hearing candidate Trump leading the cheers of “Lock her up” at his rallies. When candidate Trump offered to pay the legal fees for anyone at his rally in SC who would remove a protester, was Sterling listening? Did Sterling hear President Trump ridicule Representative Omar and say that she should “be sent back to her country.” Was Sterling listening during the Muslim ban and the ****hole countries comment? And did Sterling not wonder about all the convicted people surrounding President Trump? Did he not hear what his professional logic must has spoken?
I am glad that Gabriel Sterling has now spoken out, telling President Trump and his followers that enough has happened and that we are in a danger zone. Sterling spoke well concerning the damage done and being done to our system of government. As Chaucer wrote long ago in The Canterbury Tales, “late is better than never.”
However, I will not applaud Gabriel Sterling as a model of citizenship and as a model for an elected official. It seems to me that Sterling, like many others, has only reacted when the “power of the dog” has come to his door. Since he now feels threatened by Trump, he speaks out. Now, I hope his words help quell the assault of Trump on our democracy and on some of our citizens, and most of all I hope that Sterling, unlike the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, has not learned a lesson too late. However, I wonder if Sterling has learned anything because of what he said in an NPR interview when he admitted that he would be voting for Senators Loeffler and Perdue in the January special election because “The future of the republic is at stake. I’ve been fighting for these values my entire life, and I’m not going to leave my party. I’m going to fight to make my party the party that it needs to be.”
Has Sterling not heard the supporting words for President Trump that Loeffler and Perdue have been uttering over and over? Is he deaf to their assaults on other Georgia election officials with which he works? Does he not see Loeffler and Perdue as supporters of the beliefs that are placing him under attack?
Sterling mentions “values” in the NPR interview, and I hope the values he is thinking of are ones such as integrity, respect for self and others, decency, honesty, responsibility, trust, and such. In his news conference, we see a man pleading for all of these values and more. I hope that he will go online, find, and read Pastor Niemoller’s short poem, First They Came for Me, and then ask if Loeffler, Perdue, and their ilk deserve his respect and vote.
One thing Gabriel Sterling’s plea gives us is the lesson of “The power of the dog.” Once let loose, the pack will turn on anyone, even its handlers.