There’s more than one way to be a martyr, and you don’t even have to be particularly religious. I think of Senator Edmund Ross, the deciding vote in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, held in 1868. No Senator in the history of our republic has known the pressures he bore when it came time to a floor vote. He didn’t like president Johnson, successor to Abraham Lincoln. He didn’t respect the president, but he also didn’t believe that Johnson was guilty of an impeachable offense. As Edmund Ross said later of the moment when his name was read and it was his turn to vote, “I felt I was looking down into my open grave.” He followed his conscience, and as a result, lost his Senate seat, but he would not sell his soul.
I wonder if anyone in our government, or the congress, the Department of Justice, or the F.B.I, might, in the next months, maybe, face a similar choice – to follow his or her conscience or bow to pressure. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.