As a nation, we will all pay the price of anger and division

Copyright 2018 (all rights reserved)

By Rudy Apodaca

(published in a slightly shorter version as a commentary/guest column in the November 3, 2018 online edition and in the November 4, 2018 print edition of the San Antonio Express-News and in the November 5, 2018 online edition of the Houston Chronicle)

     The Bret Kavanaugh debacle was a tragedy for our country. I’m not referring solely to Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the nation’s highest court but to what the actions leading up to his confirmation say about us as a nation.

     Those dark days when Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee didn’t just happen overnight. What gave them life evolved through the years.

     And we did nothing to prevent them. Someday soon, maybe we’ll take note and save ourselves from the political abyss that awaits us otherwise.

     I refer to the anger (even rage), the hypocrisy, and the lack of civility and moral fiber that permeates not only our politicians but many of our nation’s populace. The recent bombing scares and synagogue shootings are prime examples.

     The controversy surrounding President Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, a proven conservative, for a seat previously held by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the court, ignited the debacle we witnessed.

     The first glimpse of rage was the sneering scowl on Kavanaugh’s face as he shamelessly blamed Democrats on the committee for his problems. He was the victim, he said defiantly, of “a calculated and orchestrated political hit”, motivated by those who sought “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” That political drivel and his demeanor wasn’t that of a jurist, let alone of a prospective U. S. Supreme Court justice.

     Some said he had a perfect right to be angry, believing he was falsely accused. But to me, his rage appeared as that of someone being kept from an esteemed position to which he felt entitled.

     Jurists, upon taking office, are held to a much higher standard of conduct than ordinary citizens. They may have cause to get angry occasionally, even in a courtroom. But judges are held accountable when they lose control and vent their anger injudiciously.

     Judicial temperament is a quality all jurists must work hard to attain. Kavanaugh failed that test. His conduct alone was enough to disqualify him to fill the high court’s vacancy.

     But there was more--his possible perjury in his recounting of his drinking days in high school and college in face of contradictory statements from those who knew him then. This should have been explored. And of course, there were Dr. Ford’s believable accusations. These three reasons, when one would have sufficed, were sufficient to withhold confirmation.

     Instead, in politicizing the process, the committee’s majority gave little, if any, weight to them. In its vote to confirm, it betrayed its members’ oaths to be guided by facts, the law and the truth.

     The committee’s coverup, which included the sham of the FBI investigation that followed summarily and its denial that it was playing politics, was compounded by one of its members, Sen. John Cornyn. Echoing Trump’s unsubstantiated statement that the protestors outside the halls of the committee’s hearing were being paid, the senator declared boldly that “we will not be bullied by the screams of paid protestors.”

     The rage didn’t stop with Kavanaugh. Consider the pathetic performance of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who angrily attacked his Democratic colleagues. He may as well have been expressing his rage into a mirror. Regrettably, such rage has also been spreading throughout the country. Hate has been stewing for years; without it, Trump would never have gotten elected.

     It was precisely this hate and growing resentment that guided those who supported Trump. That support was driven not only by those negative emotions but by supremacists and white nationalists’ irrational fears that whites might lose control and their status above other ethnic groups.

     A fine example we’ve picked to lead us--one who has shown himself to be many things, none of which we should embrace. I’ll refrain from putting labels on our president and instead judge him by his own words and actions.

     During his campaign, Trump courted and attracted anti-Semites, Nazis, supremacists, and white nationalists. This is our chosen “leader”. Where will he lead us? He’s to blame for continuing our downward ethical spiral.

     For far too long, politicians have been more concerned with their own interests instead of ours. There’s little if any integrity in legislators who tell us what they think we want to hear, instead of the truth of their convictions and beliefs--for fear that we’ll vote them out of office. Both major parties must share the blame.

     And as for us--both the haves and have-not--we’ve become spoiled and resentful. The more we attain, the more we want. Even those of us who enjoy high incomes and excellent positions have yearnings to seek more; to climb the ladder higher for greater stature and more material things. Strong resentments grow from this mindset. And that’s where Trump finds his support.

     Our country’s future is at stake. We owe it to our children and their children to preserve the dignity and civility of our country.

     Three years ago, Pope Francis visited the U. S. In addressing Congress, he referred to prominent Americans and their importance to our nation’s history. In discussing their work, he reminded us of our obligations not only to ourselves but also to others in conducting our affairs.

     The pontiff spoke on immigration, referring to Martin Luther King’s dream that inspired all of us, and the millions of foreigners who have come through the years to pursue their dreams. He reminded us that we, too, descended from immigrants. The pope also spoke of the environmental challenges we face globally. “We can make a difference”, he said. “I have no doubt that the United States--and this Congress--have an important role to play.”

     Finally, he reminded us of the “richness of (our) cultural heritage,” and “of the spirit of the American people.” He spoke of his “desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that (our youth) can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.”

     I saw not one iota of that spirit in the Kavanaugh debacle and its aftermath.

     I remind myself not to lose faith. I hope the public will soon see through the deception and dishonesty of self-serving politicians who have repeatedly stained our political process. We should embrace the challenge.

     Lucas, at 14, is the youngest of my grandchildren. He’s extremely smart and old enough to sense that life is difficult to so many of us. I can see in his eyes that he questions whether he’ll be ready for what lies ahead. Will he be prepared, he wonders, to meet the challenges awaiting him in the not-too-distant future.

     I find it disturbing that politicians--as well as the worst among us--are making it that much harder for my grandson to live his life in a country he can be proud of.

     You should too, for the sake of your own grandchildren.