Goodbye Reality, Goodbye Truth, Goodbye Decency and Goodbye America…
Am I the only one feeling like the most fundamental thing we lost last weekend with the ascension of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, was our grip on reality and the meaning of truth and decency?
I followed this story with a kind of obsession that is rare for me. Not because I related to Dr Blasey Ford, though I do. Not because I despise Brett Kavanaugh, or I thought his record of jurisprudence was the end of America as we know it. Though I fundamentally disagree with the very notion the Heritage Foundation stands for: grooming young ‘conservatives’ for political and judicial appointments. The planting of ideology in young minds at a formative time in life while nourishing it with opportunity and advancement as a basis for social success is an idea I find abhorrent to human development.
But now, his swearing in may well represent the end of treasured notions, not just of democracy and rule of law, but the very idea that human society is based on a common understanding of realty and truth, and within that exploratory process, a common sense of decency, as at least a minimum common cultural value we hold dear… BEFORE we rush to promote ideological responses to control that truth.
And the minority population, who presently hold the majority of power in the US are totally ok with the lack of the commonality of truth and decency, because then, POWER becomes the new TRUTH.
This is nothing new in the history of the world. It’s just that somehow I imagined Americans would be reasonable enough, dispassionate enough, devoted to democracy enough, to self examine before they lied about chopping down Washington’s cherry tree, and laughed their way into presiding over the destruction of one of the last millennium’s greatest social experiments: the Constitution of the United States of America; and with it, our even more fundamental perception of reality and truth as nominally objective and a shared value.
There were two pieces in my compulsive consumption that hit a nerve with me. The first article, from the “New York Review of Books” by Christopher R. Browning, is a comparison of the interwar period of the 1920’s and 30’s that gave rise to Hitler, and the current state of the United States (a “light” version summary is available here from Vox). The second is a “Behind the Scenes” piece by Trevor Noah and The Daily Show on how powerfully Trump has wielded the tool of victimization, by playing on people’s fear of being victimized to turn the tables on who is actually perceived as the victim.
In the first piece, Professor Browning suggests that we are in a very similar position in that a shrinking conservative base, unable to gather a majority, becomes comfortable with erosion of democratic norms, eventually aligns itself with a wild card populist to achieve its goals, and satisfied with the deliverables of such an alliance, slowing follows it into muddy waters, imploding into the loss of the very values it was seeking to enshrine in the first place. He talks a great deal about illiberal democracy, a democracy which still appears to hold democratic elections but which, by the erosion of its civil liberties, is no longer directed by the will of the people. But he points out that one thing is very different. In our technological age where disinformation and truth are becoming indistinguishable, we no longer need to descend into true authoritarianism. Democracy can be dissolved without such violent loss of freedoms, just by manipulation of information, and alignment of ideology (regardless of its being a minority view) across all branches of government, something that is well underway in today’s US, with voter suppression, dark money flooding the electoral process, and gerrymandering enabling frequent victories by the minority.
The second piece is a glaring exposition on one way in which Trump is controlling the narrative on Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment: by making ‘innocent men’ the victims of potentially false accusations of sexual misconduct; and how, leading into the midterms, he is making that a rallying point in his dominantly white, male base. Remember, we have no conclusive determination regarding who was telling the truth between Justice Kavanaugh and Dr Blasey Ford. The best we can say is that Dr Blasey Ford’s named, alleged attendees to the party do not recall such an event or such behaviors by the young Brett Kavanaugh. Investigation that might provide a preponderance of evidence in either direction was never undertaken, despite potential corroborating witnesses self-identifying and approaching the FBI.
The overwhelming implication of each of these pieces is not in the details of the players or the circumstances, or even their dreadful consequences and future predicted outcomes, which are harrowing. Professor Browning concludes his piece with the daunting threat of climate change (interventions for which the US is currently backtracking) and the likely overwhelming escalation of social crises that will lead to “conflicts over scarce resources that dwarf the current fate of Central Africa and Syria”. Trevor Noah compares the type of argument he cites to the rhetoric used in his days in Apartheid South Africa. Horrible as these conclusions are, I can still bear to consider them thoughtfully, and hope for solutions as they remain abstractions.
But the only way we can decline into having to seriously make such considerations, is when the goal to work together to ascertain and respond to a common understanding of facts has been so eroded, that it no longer matters. When some group, or groups, of people place their ideology and its implementation so above all other things, that they are willing to descend into non-truth to accomplish an agenda.
In the beginning I stayed out of signing any of the many liberal petitions against then Judge Kavanaugh sent to me by Democratic organizations because the one thing they all had in common was a willingness to demonize him for his record. It was, of course, suspicious that the GOP was controlling so many documents from the Judge’s work in the Bush era. But it was not until he refused to answer question after question from the Judiciary Committee that I began to wonder about what he was hiding. But like most people I was resigned to the inevitable: Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Then when the news of Dr Blasey Ford’s allegations, and then those of Ms Ramirez, then Ms Swetnick emerged, it became clear there was some kind of smoke, likely indicating SOME KIND OF FIRE. The Fox interview was a turning point for me, because he was obviously a media-coached interviewee, on a favorable network, avoiding some reality. By the time he and the GOP leadership, most notably Lindsey Graham, began to represent him as the victim after Dr Ford’s testimony, I began to feel the tug of an alternative reality taking over my universe. I fought back against all descent into hellish despair, and believed in the best nature of human awareness. The lack of a thorough investigation, and worse, the information that came my way as thoroughness was avoided, made it clear that Judge Kavanaugh did not have the temperament or even the basic truthfulness required to be awarded the pending lifetime appointment. However wonderful he might be as a person, however far away those allegations, or even exaggerated or false, and however much we all change in life, his demeanor, his obvious lack of honesty regarding his personal history under oath, were deal breakers for me.
When he was confirmed, I became even more obsessed with following the story. I was desperate to find some shred of rationality. But no, the investigation really was not thorough. He really was not forthcoming about the Bush years for reasons. Senator Susan Collins really went with the expedience of party not an exonerated accused. The more I learned the more confused, anxious, and then finally, angry I became. I want to live in a world where sincerity in the process matters; where we know we are in this together and what we do comes back to us; where we are looking together to find the best people to do their best, and not our best ideologues to serve an agenda. I want to believe in America and our constitution-naive I know-that’s been on the decline since before Brett Kavanaugh was learning to like beer.
But when President Trump apologized to Justice Kavanaugh on my behalf, and that of the whole country yesterday, (nearly half of whom do not support the appointment, significantly more than do) and declared him “proven innocent”, whatever legitimacy Justice Kavanaugh may still have been able to muster, which wasn’t much, disintegrated. When Justice Kavanaugh said he would strive to be a force for stability and unity, the words were hollow; because his very presence there was obviously already a force for division. He had submitted to an appointment without due process for his accusers. How can we possibly believe he stands for due process or rule of law? He’s now become President Trump’s poster boy for male victimization. Meanwhile his accusers have been defaulted to guilty of false accusation, or at best presumed confused over the identity of their attacker (something few women who know their attackers get confused about) without the same due process he has declared to uphold.
I am devastated for Dr Blasey Ford and her family (not to mention Ms Ramirez and Ms Swetnick). She continues to endure the same defamation, the same threats that Judge Kavanaugh railed against for the sake of his name and family; she cannot return home because of the death threats; but she has none of the comforts of victory. In fact, she is surely fighting to hold onto whatever faith she may have had in the American system, because it has not dealt with her fairly, and worse, now, some of its ‘stalwarts of leadership’ are publicly mocking her. She risked everything for the sake of the public discourse. And her risk revealed only its shattered, fragmented remains.
The surreal tagline of male danger, in a world where we can respond to a women like Dr Ford with such inhumanity, where many women live avoiding lack of awareness in all situations at all times, just because “you never know”, is unfathomable. That this drama is actually energizing the “gratitude base” (the happy voters who wanted Brett Kavanaugh, who are notoriously unmotivated voters in midterms) to get out and vote, is terrifying. That in all likelihood that confirmation process will galvanize the minority convictions to a Senate majority again in November, is unconscionable.
It turns reality on its head, and makes the TRUTH unrecognizable in a flurry of noise, to cover up pure pursuits of POWER; it empowers a feverish implementation of an agenda that otherwise would be recognizable as good for only a small, privileged few.
Unless we catch this collective wake up call and fast, it’s goodbye reality, goodbye truth, goodbye decency and goodbye America…at least, as we thought we knew ye.
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