Sunday, September 30, 2018

Absolute certainty is the enemy of collaboration, measured judgements and maturity

The search for truth in a boiling cauldron of sex, power, ambition and lies is a dangerous and interminable drama.

The United States political culture, “that boiling cauldron,” is not a culture that either supports or enables the discovery of ‘the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” so help me God! Sending the FBI off to do what is termed a further background investigation of one, Brett Kavanaugh, restricted to the names already known through the courageous evidence of one Dr. Christine Blassy Ford, under the political pressure of irate phone calls, emails and direct confrontations at Senate Office Building elevator doors (Sen. Jeff Flake) was clearly not on the agenda of the sexual-predator president’s radar.

And then, in an off-handed manner to reporters on his way to another campaign rally in West Virginia, for the president to say ‘they have a free hand to go wherever they have to’ is more than disingenuous; it is another of the litany of deceptions, cover-ups and dissemblings that characterize both the chief executive and his nominee’s defense of his appointment to the Supreme Court. As James Comey, fired FBI Director tweeted, “Small lies matter!”

Much has been written and pontificated by talking heads on television, about the dramatic differences in the demeanour of Kavanaugh and Blassy Ford in their respective testimonies. Responses from Republican Senators especially, has been predictably supportive of Kavanaugh, while the Democrats and the #MeTooMovement have almost universally supported Blassy Ford. The line, “A house divided against itself cannot stand!” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address seems to echo in one’s mind as one attempts to ingest and to digest the ramifications of the current tabloid-type tragedy.

And it is and will be a tragedy no matter how it is ‘resolved. If the FBI reports nothing additional, and Kavanaugh is confirmed, a higher than 50% of America will consider the process a miscarriage of justice. Ironic, that word ‘miscarriage,’ given that the long-term goal of the right-wing cabal that currently has control of all three institutions of the United States government is to ‘kill’ Roe v. Wade, that so-called ‘settled law’ that permits therapeutic abortions and ensures a woman’s right to choose about her own body.

If, on the other hand, Blassy Ford’s riveting testimony is upheld by even one witness, or the circumstantial evidence tilts in her direction so far that the nominee’s name is withdrawn, voluntarily or peremptorily by the president, Kavanaugh’s supporters will be enraged, potentially hostile and even potentially violent. If the nominee’s demeanour in the afternoon of Thursday’s addended hearing is any indication, and the responses from the lobby that supports his nomination through a media blitz of advertising combine to provide any indication of probable outcomes should his nomination be derailed, this issue, this nomination and this historic moment will continue to fester, to boil and to potentially boil over in the November mid-term elections.

Senator Flake’s move to seek a pause through time for a further investigation, while noble and even honourable, will be a mere hiccup, depending on the evidence that is uncovered, reported to the White House and then, hopefully completely and accurately conveyed to the Senate Judicial Committee. Should Kavanaugh’s nomination founder on the shoal of public opinion, we all know that another equally if not even more conservative nominee will be proferred by the White House with an even more intemperate demand that s/he be confirmed prior to the mid-term elections.

Ironic isn’t it that compressed time, almost into mere seconds, is now the imperative of the Republicans, those same mostly old white men, who considered a full calendar year not to be a problem given the nomination of Merrick Garland by then president Obama on the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Time, like money, is a moveable feast or famine, depending on one’s point of view. And in this case, one’s point of view is a direct reflection of one’s estimate of what the public will tolerate.

Rex Murphy has written about the inadequate way in which the media has operated in this debacle. It says here that the public’s insatiable appetite for a trump-infested diet of lies and braggadocio is also an underlying and significant motivation for the other older white men who sit in the board rooms of the major media conglomerates to pursue ratings and profits, regardless of their source or their integrity. Hourly tweeting by the president is not, and never should have been, the staple diet of serious media editors and executives. Just because there is a new technology to which a majority of people are addicted, and to which the media sources have yet to develop a responsible filtering process, we and they ought not to have been overwhelmed and seduced by the president’s narcissistic and tragic ambition. And the Kavanaugh nomination, albeit one for an important life-long position of serious judgement, needed as much as any single piece of business and decision, the kind of serious reflection by the administration, and even more serious reflection by the media. Jammed into a multi-layered sandwich of tweets and rally-blusters-bombs about North Korea, Rosenstein, Mueller, Manafort, Cohen, Flynn, Cushner, NAFTA, and impeachment, the reflective processes of a serious and stable nation have become unravelled and lie in the newsrooms and in the bars and even the lecture halls in tatters and shreds.

The demise of truth, one of the more significant casualties of the war on the establishment perpetrated by the trump-bannon “axis of evil,” and the concomitant rise of “fake news” to take its place has contributed significantly to the great divide in public opinion. Each side considers its view to be based on the facts, when each side demonizes the other, and bases its view on the “justified” opposition to the other.

Partisanship, to the degree that it has not only permitted but exacerbated the breakdown in the functioning of the democratic institutions, showed its pre-eminence in the vitriolic self-defence offered by Kavanaugh on Thursday afternoon. Touted by some as the ‘new leader of the Republican Party, Kavanaugh may have, consciously or not, traded in his application for the Supreme Court job for a new office, as Chairman of the Republican Party under trump.

If that is what happens, Kavanaugh will have written his own career biography, given the obvious vacancy of leadership in the Republican Party and the minimal qualifications for any aspirant, following the example of the president, to avoid, pay off or simply deny criminal, moral, ethical turpitude, mostly with cash a willing dupes.

On the other side, Dr. Blassy Ford, trembling, frightened, tremulous and clearly authentic in both her narrative and her demeanour, generated a 201% increase in the calls coming into the National Sexual Assault hotline on the day of the joint testimony. Sexual assault, sexual impropriety, sexual entitlement and sexual relations have become so radioactive, politically, legally, culturally in this climate that the lives of both protagonist (Kavanaugh) and antagonist (Blassy Ford) have been threatened. Inevitably, also, that radioactivity has over-flowed into this nomination and confirmation process.

To turn a blind eye to the direct and indirect responsibility on the president’s shoulders for the current state of the union would be irresponsible. To turn a deaf ear to the calls for an FBI investigation, as the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were determined to do until Sen. Flake called a “time out,” would also be irresponsible. In a nation in which mental health treatment is so glaringly and blatantly and deliberately absent along with any tolerance and acceptance of ambiguity, uncertainty, balance, and shared responsibility, a measured consideration of the complex and mutually exclusive narratives by the Senate, the media, the #MeTooMovement, the #TimesUp movement and the opinion polls  seems inconceivable.

The archetype of the war model of “fight-to-the-death” pervades American history, including the Civil War and ensuring battle for civil rights that continues today, including the incarceration of thousands of innocent and mostly men too poor to be able to fund bail, including the willful murder of innocent black men by white law enforcement officers, including the addiction to video war games. The income war of disparity between the rich and powerful against those without political voice, clout, cash and connections, and the ubiquitous power dominance of white males, as evidenced by the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee….all of this portends a protracted conflict, without even a glimpse of reconciliation, between the genders.

Reporting, and making judgements on the reporting that distorts/omits/distracts from so much of the nuanced complexities and ambiguities only serves the intellectual appetite and capacity for reductionism, simplicity, and a binary view of the universe.

Unless and until some significant steps are envisioned, written about and tolerated in the public media that embrace uncertainly, ambiguity, tolerance of different opinions, along with the capacity to debate with authentic dignity, including the deployment of an agreed body of facts, there is little likelihood that this historic moment will resolve in a way that provides light in a pitch-dark tunnel where a trump presidency is not only possible, but apparently looking forward to a second term.

And, for the trump cult, sexual assaults, innuendo, and mal-feasance be damned!

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