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There’s a Congressman who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, who’s often appeared on the MSNBC shows I tend to watch, and who is, in the parlance adopted by Kathy and me, a Bunny. He’s just a Bunny. By that, we mean that he’s somebody who’s plainly struggled all his life to understand why people never seem to grasp that everything would be so much easier, so much happier, so much more just, equitable, and dare we even float the concept, dignified, if we just stopped being so cruel to each other, stopped lying to support our own pernicious schemes to hurt each other, and simply started to behave as if the right kind of person is the sort who tries to get as much as he or she can out of life without deliberately and unfairly sacrificing the well-being and legitimate interests of others. We don’t have to play this as a zero-sum game, do we? There has to be a better way, right? There just has to be.

Well, sitting in Congress has turned out to be too much for Denny Heck, (D)-Olympia. This just in:

Dec 4, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) announced that he will retire from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of the 116th Congress. Congressman Heck made the announcement in the following letter:

Dear Friends:

With the bulk of the Intelligence Committee’s work on impeachment behind us, Thanksgiving week provided me with a good opportunity for rest and reflection. I thought a lot about the privilege it is to serve the people of the 10th Congressional District and to be one of only approximately 12,000 people in our Republic’s history to serve in the US House. This is important work and there are many parts to the job I deeply love…

It is incredible work but it takes its toll. Being away so much from Paula, my best friend and wife of nearly 44 years, can be lonely even when I am in a crowded room. At our age, however many “good years” we have left together is not a growing number. 

In the spirit of complete openness, part of me is also discouraged. The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary. I will never understand how some of my colleagues, in many ways good people, could ignore or deny the President’s unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth.

As has been observed, however, to some degree he is a symptom and not the cause or at least the only cause. The truth is that civic discourse began degrading before him. At times, it is as though there are no rules or boundaries. Success seems to be measured by how many Twitter followers one has which are largely gained by saying increasingly outrageous things, the more personal the better. There are simply too many hyperbolic adjectives and too few nouns. Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in… 

So, unless it hasn’t been clear enough: Thank you! But it is time for me to retire.  

Denny Heck

He never could figure it out. Wasn’t kindness always preferable to heartless, vicious cruelty? Wasn’t the truth always preferable to lies? Wasn’t it better if public policy did as much good as possible for as many as possible? Were these not truths that the beloved Founders would also have agreed were self-evident?

I want to grab him by the shoulders and yell NO, DENNY. WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU!! STAY!! FIGHT!!! But Denny can’t fight any longer. He’s been fighting. He did fight. But comes a time in everyone’s life when you lose. You fight, and you do your damndest, and you lose.

Denny Heck, (D)-Olympia, just lost, and so did all the rest of us, all of us, everywhere, who long inexpressibly to keep the home fires burning for a possible return to sanity. Christ, I hate like hell to even think this, but it really is starting to look like we’ve lost for good this time, lost all of it for real, and it breaks my heart.

How can anyone be like Denny and survive in today’s political reality? It’s a wonder, isn’t it, that he hung on as long as he did. Yes, I wish he would stay on and fight, but after all, he’s just a Bunny. He tried, he tried hard, and he did his whole, heartbreaking duty. Last night, he was talking to Chris Hayes on MSNBC, and he said something that reminded me a lot of me: One thing I’ve heard a lot over the past two or three years, in fact I’ve heard it too much, is “we’re better than this”. Well, Chris, I think whether we’re better than this remains to be seen. I say that kind of thing all the time. It’s strange, then, that hearing him say it made me so sad.

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