Congressional Hearings Then and Now

How radically one’s priorities shift over time.

Even as I write this, I’m listening to the impeachment hearings. I’ve borne witness to live testimony at every opportunity. I’m finding it riveting.

I’m really impressed with some of the dedicated public servants I’ve had the opportunity to hear. There really are bureaucrats out there who are well-meaning and full of integrity. That makes me feel as though our country may be able to recover from all this divisiveness and corruption. Someday.

Unfortunately, these testimonies have also shined a light on some of the cockroaches in our government. Those who are choosing not to testify are not participating in the process of revealing truth and clarifying the situation. Justice is not the end goal for these people. Their integrity will forever be in question, as far as I’m concerned. Clearly, they have something to hide.

Other cockroaches include those who are trying to stir up drama by using inflammatory phrases in the hopes that they’ll make good sound bites. Comparing this situation to a “drug deal” or an “inquisition” is not helpful, nor is it even remotely accurate. Implying that the closed-door depositions are somehow out of order is absurd. In all types of hearings, depositions are behind closed doors. The only time one sees a deposition is in the movies. Also, attempting to out the whistleblower is an effort to find a scapegoat to deflect attention from the subject of the impeachment.

But worst of all, without a doubt, are the tweets and the bullies who are attempting to intimidate witnesses. It makes this country look like a banana republic. It makes us look like thugs. And it makes me ashamed.

But even as I listen to these hearings, I remember the 8 year old me during the Watergate scandal. Little me threw more than one tantrum because the hearings pre-empted all her children’s programming. And it seemed to go on for an eternity. She was sooooooooo bored! She was furious at her mother for not being able to tell “someone” to restore decent television to the land.

What a difference maturity and life experience make. How radically one’s priorities shift over time. And thank goodness for Netflix.


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!


Eyewitness Misidentification

According to the Innocence Project, “Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in 72% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.” I completely believe this, because I’ve lived it. I make a lousy witness.

When I was 17 years old I worked for a small travel agency. My desk was right by the front entrance. One morning I came in and the manager asked to speak to all of us. He said there was a guy going around to all the local travel agencies and buying plane tickets with a different fake ID each time, then going to the airports and cashing in these tickets, leaving the travel agencies to eat the cost. He’d managed to get thousands of dollars that way so far. Our manager suspected (I can’t remember why) that that man had bought a ticket from us, and that he was going to come in and pick it up some time this morning. When that happened, we were to proceed as normal, but very slowly, and I was to notify him and a coworker was to call the police immediately.

This was certainly not going to be a routine day at the office. Tensions were running high. At around noon the guy walked in. I referred him to one of the agents. I quietly got up and went to the manager’s office to inform him. Then I sat back down at my desk and pretended to work. The manager walked toward the front door. I think the guy picked up on our nervousness, so he leaped up and ran for the exit. The manager was blocking his way and they got into a scuffle. This was right in front of my desk. I was paralyzed with fear. I remember seeing the sweat on the guy’s forehead and his wild eyes as he struggled to get out the door.

Finally he made good his departure, with my manager right on his heels. This was no mean feat because my manager walked with a cane. He proceeded to use the metal tip of that cane to smash in the guy’s windshield as he drove away. The police were taking this guy seriously. They broke out the helicopter for this one, and he was finally apprehended, still in the car, plane ticket in hand, his lap covered with broken glass.

We were all asked to write police reports. My adrenaline was still pumping, but I wrote a detailed report. (I can never be accused of being lost for words.) I was the person who got closest to the man. I saw him sweat. The fight happened mere feet from me. I described him as having light brown, curly hair, blue eyes, and a sort of medium complexion. I said he was about 6 feet tall, and wearing jeans and a light colored t-shirt.

The next day the story was all over the news. It included the guy’s mug shot. He had straight, dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. He had a swarthy complexion and he was about 5’8”. In the news footage he had been wearing a dark shirt and khaki pants. I was wrong in every single detail. So much for my observation skills. Fortunately my coworkers descriptions were closer to the truth, and yet not 100 percent accurate either.

About a year later the case finally came to trial. The prosecutor asked me to testify. I called her and said I now lived in a different city, but I would gladly cooperate. However, I asked her if she had read my police report. I told her that based on my description I might not be the best witness for the case. She agreed. She told me she’d let me know if she changed her mind, but that she wouldn’t be needing me at this time after all. Good call.

The man was convicted of his crimes. even though he didn’t look anything like I thought, I am sure they got the right man. His finger prints were all over several of those fraudulent plane tickets.

Ever since then, I have never taken eyewitness testimony seriously. I think of myself as an observer of the world, and if I can screw something up that dramatically, anyone can. Food for thought.