I don’t pay attention to political news, these days. Both camps have crystallized themselves into positions of pearls-clutching outrage that have grown beyond tiresome. My political leanings are no secret, but it’s clear that half of the country disagrees with me, and what’s been important to me lately is trying to understand why.
But an article on Slate.com peaked my interest yesterday. It suggested – which is all one can do, of course – that the most recent supreme court nominee might have a drinking problem.
Something else that’s not a secret on this blog is that I, too, struggled with alcohol at one time. So I decided to go and read the transcript myself. And I thought this was going to be a post about that, about alcohol, when I started writing it. But after working through my thoughts a bit, I realized that what was upsetting to me about it was something else entirely.
My friends on the right side of the aisle are up in arms about a witch hunt. They say the nominee is under an unfair microscope. That his accuser is being manipulated by Democrats for their own ends. That he’s being railroaded simply because he is a white male, the root of all evil.
My leftie pals are convinced the guy is a sexual predator, a man who abused his privilege. That he’s exactly what’s wrong with this country and is only getting what he and all those other old white male assholes so richly deserve.
I don’t have any use for either of those viewpoints. They just turn the man in question into a thing, a label, a symbol of whatever their current grievance happens to be, never mind there’s an actual human being in there whose life has been drastically and permanently altered, and to no good end. I mean, let’s say, for the sake of argument, not saying he does, but what if it came to light that he did have a drinking problem, maybe needed some help? Well, too bad, addressing that is decidedly not on the menu, no-one I’ve talked to seems to think that makes any difference at all.
Now, I’m not ignoring the elephant in the room. On the contrary, it boggles my mind that when it comes to handling crimes involving, you know, stuff, we’re still acting like we’re stuck somewhere in the fifteenth century. Let’s all self-righteously give ourselves permission to take the personal lives of other people, lay them out in public, pick at their scabs, and live stream the whole bloody event. While we’re at it, let’s bring back stoning and burning at the stake, come on now, don’t you miss all that good family fun.
Are we all so much better for having last week’s circus, because that does seem to be the appropriate term, permanently posted on our national home page like graffiti on a bridge? There’s an interstate here where an overpass stretches across just as the Mormon temple comes into view. Over two decades ago, someone spray-painted “SURRENDER DOROTHY” on that overpass (lulz). It’s been painted over several times, but you can still see some of the letters. That’s how I feel about last Thursday’s hearing. It’s always going to be there; it doesn’t matter how many times we paint over it.
Here’s a thought. Maybe, as soon as someone became aware that a crime might have been committed, that someone could have said, “nope, this isn’t our job, we’re going to report it to the proper authorities and just stick to the political stuff.” Turned it over to law enforcement, used that court system we have, we wrote a constitution, we specifically put clear protocols for the adjudication of exactly this sort of thing in it. And if this was about anything that wasn’t about, you know, stuff, who knows, that might actually have happened. No senators. No speeches. No cameras. No spectacle.
But no, that’s not how it was played. Instead, the people involved decided – made a decision, a choice, no-one was forced here – to handle it, or rather manhandle it, themselves. The result of their fine work is that a victim has been assaulted for a second time, this time in public, and the accused won’t be able to find an impartial jury anywhere in this hemisphere. Does anyone else see the irony in a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States – whose primary purpose is to interpret and enforce constitutional law – being denied his rights under the 14th amendment?
And I can’t find anyone to talk to about how I feel, on the left or the right, about how conflicted I am, how sad I am, how scared I am that this is just how it’s going to be from now on, us locked in an ideological arms race and pouring concrete for a future where compromise isn’t in the blueprint.
We’re better than this; I have to think we are. This didn’t have to be this way. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to simply take a moment and think about the people involved as people before deciding to act. And why is it that I can see this so clearly but can’t find anyone else who sees it the same way? I’m on the spectrum. I’m supposed to be the one who doesn’t understand how social interaction works, and you know what, I guess I must not, because I don’t get this at all. It feels like we went very, very wrong on this one, despite opportunities to do otherwise.
I can’t be the only one who feels like this has exposed a critical flaw in this process, and that it may be one of the last opportunities to change the way we handle these things in the future. Is anyone else willing to put down her weapons and say “enough, this isn’t working, can we just talk for a second, try to figure something else out?”
No-one’s taken me up on it yet. But I’m still hoping.