Watching Impeach-a-Palooza

On November 19th, 2019, Representative Devin Nunes included the following in his opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee; he looked straight at the dozens of cameras staring at him, leaned into his microphones, and declared:

The media, of course, are free to act as Democrat puppets, and they’re free to lurch from the Russia hoax to the Ukraine hoax at the direction of their puppet masters. But they cannot reasonably expect to do so without alienating half the country who voted for the President they’re trying to expel.

Americans have learned to recognize fake news when they see it, and if the mainstream press won’t give it to them straight, they’ll go elsewhere to find it—which is exactly what the American people are doing.

None of this is a “hoax”, and this isn’t “fake news”. The Ukraine-Russia scandal is not an orchestrated fiasco directed by Democratic puppet masters. 

The Orange Revolution was not a hoax, and neither was Euromaidan. 100 peaceful protesters were not murdered by Russian snipers. Ukrainians did not spend months defending Independence Square for nothing. The winter of 2014 was truly was on fire. That’s why the U.S. has been sending billions of military aid for years. According to the United Nations, 13,000 Ukrainians have died since 2014 in the war against Russia. Nunes disregarded the blood of thousands without skipping a beat. Nunes would spout support for so many conspiracy theories regarding Ukraine and “fake news” throughout the hearing that #DevinNunesIsAnIdiot would soon trend on Twitter.

NBC News

I have been listening to the congressional testimonies every morning, 9am Chicago time, with the earbuds that came in the box of my iPhone 6s plugged into my work-study office desktop, a cup of office-brewed coffee in my hands, and my heart in my throat. The Orange Revolution happened when I was a second grader, and when I was sixteen, my greatest fear, besides the ACT and college applications, was whether or not my grandfather’s house in Ukraine would be bombed. I used to strategically sit in the back row of my fifth hour Spanish class so I could discreetly read the news on my phone, since that classroom had solid signal in my normally electronically-challenged school building. I’ll never forget walking to my sixth hour AP English class in a daze because Crimea had been “officially invaded and annexed by Russia.” 

(Don’t worry; I still aced both junior year Spanish and AP English.)  

Years later, when Trump became a candidate, he would publicly remark that it would be fine if Russia kept Crimea, because he believed that people in Crimea really wanted to become Russian. Ukraine’s Crimea is about the size of Texas, and Ukrainians probably love Crimea the way Americans love Texas. So imagine, for just a moment, if a foreign aggressor invaded and annexed the entire state of Texas. 

Some highlights:

According to George Kent, who testified on day one of the hearing, “...a Europe truly whole, free, and at peace — our strategic aim for the entirety of my foreign service career — is not possible without a Ukraine whole, free, and at peace, including Crimea and Donbas, territories currently occupied by Russia.”

Bill Taylor also testified on that day that in his decades of military and diplomatic service representing the United States, he could not recall another instance where foreign aid was conditioned based on the President’s personal agenda and interests. 

Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman came to the United States as a three-year-old Ukrainian refugee. He graduated from Harvard University, and he earned a Purple Heart. 

Politico

Sitting at my desk, I listened to Nunes call him, “Mister Vindman”, and “Mister Vindman” asking to be referred to with his proper title. When asked what language he speaks, Vindman simply replied to him, “Russian, Ukrainian, and a little bit of English.” 

Throughout the testimony, Vindman would be frequently asked by Republicans what language he was speaking and what language others around him were using. Republicans openly questioned whether he was “American enough”. What I was listening to this morning made me feel like a middle schooler on the bus ride to school, being told by my peers to go back to Ukraine, trying to drown them out with ear buds playing Taylor Swift on my iPod. 

Sitting at my desk, I watched Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s competency and expertise being denounced for hours and hours. Particularly hilarious to me was when, speaking to reporters during the televised break, Congressman Perry danced around questions of language, loyalty, and foreign service. The heritage bashing couldn’t even take a few minutes of recess. 

Jim Jordan, who was possibly the greatest xenophobe of the morning, would begin talking about the Colonel’s bosses questioning his loyalty, judgement, and even an accusation of leaking information. Lieutenant Vidman had to read Dr. Hill’s evaluation of him aloud to prove otherwise.   

Yikes. 

As I breathe air and type this, the testimony continues. So does the immigrant bashing, the “Fake News” smearing, Trump calling Ukrainians "terrible people", and other exciting updates. I just have to keep watching what Representative Stewart calls "Impeach-a-palooza".

You’d think I’d have closed my laptop by now, but then again, as an American, and as a subsequent Ukrainian American who happens to be the daughter of a refugee, I just can’t. I was scared as a little kid, I was mortified when I was a teenager, and I’m still terrified at twenty-two.  

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom