My mother's wagging finger, often underscored with a firm “You know better,” is entrenched in memory.

Most often, I did know better. I knew what I’d done was wrong, but I’d done it anyway, and whether I’d been teasing a sister, hadn’t cleaned my room or returned late from a friend’s, that raised finger was there to greet me.

That same admonitory finger comes to mind when I see political leaders so obviously motivated by self-interest that their bad behavior invites immediate censure.

Recent news of Trump advisor Steve Bannon defying a congressional subpoena to testify about his knowledge of the planning behind the Jan. 6 insurrection made my mother’s finger loom large.

Bannon attended an insurrection planning meeting at the Washington, D.C, Willard Hotel, but when subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, he refused to appear. A vote of the House (229-202) cited him for contempt of Congress. (Washington Post)

Perhaps just as deserving of my mother’s wagging finger are the 202 Republican representatives who sided with him by voting against the House motion to hold him in contempt. (Axios) These legislators who swore to protect the Constitution that the insurrection attempted to subvert all know of Bannon’s involvement. They know that just like all Americans, he has a legal obligation to come before Congress when subpoenaed. Yet the 202 Republicans who voted “no” are apparently fine with all that.

And the politicians who, for political advantage, countenance and even spread disinformation about the safety and effectiveness of COVID vaccines or act as if there really were massive voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election are no different. They all know better, too.

Even if my late mother could recruit her four dead sisters, they would still not have enough wagging fingers to go around.

Ken Winkes


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