Now They’ve Gone and Done It!

Now they’ve gone and done it! The Twinsburg Historical Society has invited me to give a talk on Wednesday, March 22. The title is “Organizations:
American Democracy’s
Secret Sauce.” (Unless I change it: I tend to fiddle with my presentations right up until showtime, which in this case is 7:00 p.m.)

The location is 8996 Darrow Road (route 91), Twinsburg, Ohio. You may recognize the building, which is shown above. The presentation is free and open to the public.

I hope to have some interesting things to offer. It’s Women’s History Month, and I’ve been asked to provide an update on our efforts in Bedford and the neighboring communities to establish a chapter of the League of Women Voters. (An LWV group is being organized in Twinsburg.) I think I’ll have some experiences to relate to others working on similar projects.

Since I’ve been active in a dizzying variety of organizations, I’ve been encouraged to connect our League chapter experience to other civic engagement activities. I have ambitious plans to extend the lessons of our League chapter to civic engagement in general.

I’ll review the history of associations in American civic life, and note the present state of civic engagement. I’ll fit in some observations about the value of learning the basics of parliamentary procedure.

For those of a more political bent, I’ll share some bipartisan information about the health of grass-roots political activity in Summit County.

As my drama students used to say: Don’t miss it if you can.

Heroes at the Board of Elections

It took me three tries, but I finally voted last week. While my wife and I marked our vote-by-mail ballots at the kitchen table, something distracted me and I misvoted. I remembered seeing some instructions about what to do if you ruined your ballot, and decided to try that route. The result was instructive and unexpectedly positive.

The instructions provide a phone number to call if you mess up your ballot. A million and a quarter people live in our county, and I expected a bureaucratic nightmare. But eventually a lady named Georgia answered. She told me to bring my spoiled ballot to the Board of Elections. She gave me the hours I could do that and assured me that I would have no difficulty finding her.

When I got there two days later, I found Georgia right inside the door. “Oh, you’re Mr. Lavezzi,” she said. “See, I have your name right here.” (Holds up a note that she had taken when we talked.) “We’ll get you taken care of right away.”

What I hadn’t realized is that under these situations, you don’t get a new mail ballot: you get a new ballot to vote in person at the Board of Elections. And a lot of people vote there early in person–probably a couple of dozen or so while I was there, in a rather large room with several voting stations. A poll-worker took my spoiled ballot, brought me a new ballot, and showed me to a voting station where I filled out my ballot. I was back in my car in ten minutes.

It was a busy room, with a lot of people going in and out. In this particular encounter, I probably met a half dozen election workers, and every single one was as helpful as they could be.

Our democracy is strained and political tribes are at each other’s throats. A lot of people question the legitimacy of the election process; but that doesn’t match my experience. Whether as a candidate or a voter, every encounter has been positive and professional. “Stop the steal”? I don’t think so.

When you vote, thank the election workers. Just try not to let your attention wander as you fill out your ballot.

The Impeachment of Henry II

December 1170: Henry II of England, furious over the resistance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, cries, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”1

While there is some question as to exactly what Henry said, there is no question that his words were incendiary, and no doubt about the result: four of his knights, considering themselves commissioned by their king, went to Canterbury Cathedral and hacked the “meddlesome priest”2 Thomas à Becket to death.

So was Henry just blowing off steam, or exercising his free-speech rights? Or was he, consciously or not, ordering the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket?3 Both Europe at the time, and the verdict of history, put Becket’s blood on Henry. In order to save his soul (and put himself and his kingdom back in good terms with the Church), Henry performed a rather spectacular public penance.

Washington, February 2021: As I understand it, one of the defenses made by apologists for Trump’s inciting his followers up to and including the January 6 Capitol insurrection is that he didn’t really mean what happened to happen. He was just exercising his First Amendment rights.

In a criminal proceeding, that defense might work. But an impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding. US Presidents have access to the biggest bully pulpit in the world, and should be held to account for the consequences of their words.

Rome, all Europe, and history impeached4 Henry II. The House has done the same with Trump. Conviction in the Senate won’t bring back the victims of the Capitol insurrection, but it might be a minimum appropriate penance for America’s most irresponsible President.


  1. In one version of the story, anyway. In another, “meddlesome” is replaced by “turbulent.” According to another, what he said was, “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!”
  2. Or “turbulent priest,” “low-born clerk.”
  3. On the plus side, Canterbury’s status as a shrine provided the opportunity for Geoffrey Chaucer to relate the wonderful Canterbury Tales as a frame story set on a pilgrimage there.
  4. “Impeach” isn’t simply an American political term. See