WASHINGTON — When the country is divided and in crisis, as we are now, it's remarkable how one brave person can point the way forward.
In civil war or Civil War, that person may be unknown or wanted by law. Like the current whistleblower, legendary Harriet Tubman played a major role in saving American democracy.
The Underground Railroad conductor, whose life story is told in the new movie "Harriet," was a fugitive sought by the government.
But agents and slave catchers never could corner her as she led enslaved people to freedom on Maryland's Eastern Shore. They had no idea what she looked like, amid her several disguises. Was "Moses" a man or a woman? Either way, Moses was known to carry a pistol, inspiring fear in the hearts of pursuers.
Right now, we have a Washington whistleblower to thank for high patriotism and duty. A CIA officer of conscience spelled out the abuse of power in President Donald Trump's blunt dealings with Ukraine. Trump set up a quid pro quo for roughly $400 million in military aid, staking it on a "favor," namely that Ukraine would help his 2020 reelection campaign by investigating political rival Joe Biden and his son.
Yet the American public can't send a thank-you note, as we don't know the CIA officer's name. All we know is that an anonymous action sped us to the precipice of House impeachment. It's almost bound to happen by Thanksgiving.
A Senate trial will decide the ultimate outcome for Trump. For that turn of events, more than half of Americans are grateful. Less than half of voters — about 43% — will likely stand by their man.
The whistleblower took personal risks, as did Tubman. The president makes no secret of his vendetta against the individual. It's likely his or her identity will be revealed in the public square, to be praised and pilloried.
One more key point about such brave people: They embolden others to follow suit or break their unhappy silence.
Ambassadors William Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch came forward to testify on Capitol Hill on Trump's crass conduct toward Ukraine. They found it unethical at best, unconstitutional at worst — and they both backed up the whistleblower's account.
Taylor and Yovanovitch added detail and color, ignoring a State Department order not to appear before Congress.
But it took only one person to make that happen. Consider this a thank-you note, Whistleblower, who should seek a soul mate in the movie "Harriet."
Tubman worked by night, in secret, silence and stealth, navigating by the North Star and moonlight. During the 1850s, she led 13 groups of enslaved family members and kin to freedom, returning to the harsh "Egypt" of Eastern Shore slavery time and again.
In the African American underground network, Tubman was known as the spiritual leader of her people. She sang in a husky, haunting voice, often in code.
Like most people born into slavery, Tubman remained illiterate all her life and signed her name with an X. She was a brilliant navigator of the Chesapeake Bay landscape.
Maryland's large population of free black people and the presence of sympathetic antislavery Quakers made it easier to escape to freedom. Tubman and Marylander Frederick Douglass both fled from bondage as young adults, she in 1849 and he in 1838. She walked; he took the train.
Among the underground resistance, Tubman's actions inspired other abolitionists as the country neared the Civil War's breaking point. Fiery John Brown called her General Tubman.
It's a little-known fact that she acted as a Union Army spy, scout and laundress during the war itself.
In South Carolina, during a 1863 military operation, Tubman aided hundreds of slaves to climb aboard Union steamboats for freedom. Tubman raised her voice, cutting the air as she sang with escaping enslaved people.
A reporter on the scene praised her singular "patriotism." Yes, Tubman acted to make an angry, divided nation live up to its higher ideals.
Abolitionist Douglass wrote of Tubman's heroic journeys: "The difference between us is very marked ... I have wrought in the day — you in the night."
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the website, creators.com.