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The Clowns

By Mary Summerbell

Recently, while binge-watching news of the Senate hearing for Supreme Court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I had plenty of time to observe, ponder, and question many things about our current political situation, and how it relates to the origins of our political system, and to the essence of our government.

I watched the Democrats attempt to stop the procedure, based on requested documents withheld, and then a huge document dump the night before – but with obviously relevant information still conspicuously missing. Also, they revealed that the lawyer deciding on document confidentiality was not only not an authorized agent of the federal government, but a former colleague of the nominee. I listened to Republican rebuttals that none of these issues justified stopping the process, and their claims that the Democrats were simply obstructing, based on the lasting bitter taste of sour grapes from losing the last presidential election. Intending to be an impartial observer, I lost it completely, admitting my silly self-deception when I felt the sting of a Republican senator saying to the Democrats something like, “You don’t seem to get it. If you want the votes, win the election.” Ooooh! That got me. From then on I owned my bias as I reveled in the fray.

Throughout objections, interruptions and debates both parties repeatedly accused each other of grandstanding, sabotage and pure, plain cussedness. And this was just the chaotic prelude, before the hearing actually began – under protest of the Democrats. Drama continued for days, not just from contentious exchanges among committee members, but from citizens – hundreds of them, eventually – loudly and intermittently erupting in protest against the nominee, and being arrested and removed from the room.  In one particularly rebellious moment senators Cory Booker (D) New Jersey and Mazie Hirono (D) Hawaii defiantly released committee confidential documents to the public – emailing them out on the spot – daring the Republican members to have them arrested.

And then there was the nominee. In my opinion, a study in political shiftiness. I thought him smooth, savvy, obviously quite qualified by some objective measures – and, in some ways, almost likable – but cagey, elusive and evasive when he chose to be, like regarding perjuries during previous nominations and speaking illegally to other lawyers about ongoing investigations. From previously grooming others for this process, he was glaringly well-prepared. Mostly keeping a flat affect under duress, the tells showed in his contradictory responses, especially when caught off-guard by something unexpected. He seemed overly, obviously sentimental about his own family but rather unfeeling regarding the people whose cases he presided over. He showed clear inconsistencies in supposedly supporting women, with a majority of female assistants in his law office, but then recently ruling to deny, by delay, a seventeen-year-old immigrant girl from getting a legal abortion. And I noticed that his most exceptional memory suddenly slipped when repeatedly asked certain pertinent questions. Watching Kavanaugh, I thought, “Ah! Here’s a fellow who knows how to play this game.”

But is that all this is? A game? This hearing, this process? Our political system? Is it just an act, a sham, a masquerade of phonies and fakes pretending to be leaders but really serving only themselves? Is our whole government just a game, after all, won by the most clever players? – Or those who break the most rules and get away with it? So many people have told me that it’s all just a show, an old movie replaying – heading toward its inevitable end of confirming the nominee. They don’t see why I’m so interested in this, and wonder why I spend my time on it.

It’s because I care, about people and about my country. I love the United States and I believe in the basic principles on which it was founded – especially, fundamentally – freedom. I’ve been very upset and distressed – not alone, I know – by what I see as the travesty of Trump’s presidency. It’s been tough for a lot of us, psychologically and emotionally. There are so many issues….I started to make a short list of them, but I won’t make myself do it, because there is no short list, and I feel sick thinking of it all. You all know what you see and hear, and how you feel about it. I feel that the selection of Supreme Court judges, especially the current one, is a linchpin issue, because it will make a conservative majority on the court, affecting so many people for such a long time. The fact that the Republicans refused to even talk to, much less consider, President Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court still amazes me. How did the Republicans get away with that? And holding open numerous lower court appointments, also, stacking them up for the next Republican president to fill. How can that happen? I’m still baffled; I don’t understand it.

But, now, as I watch and wait to see how this turns out, I focus on the greatest good for all. By paying attention to this event, and shining light on it, and sending love and healing energy into it, I can help make a shift for the better. And I can’t pretend that I know what’s better, or best, for all. Only Soul knows that. I know my ego is hoping against hope that the Democrats can rally enough public interest to influence two Republicans to cross over and vote “no” to this nominee. And I know that there are lots of people out there who are hoping equally hard that he will get in. But spiritually I know that I must embrace all, no matter how repulsive or offensive some may be to my personality. I must trust that they care, somehow, somewhere inside them, and they have just as much right as I do to express their perspectives, opinions and beliefs.

Ultimately, despite what seems like deception, trickery, and hypocrisy, I refuse to believe that it’s all a mockery. I’m not ready to give up hope that there is some glimmer of authenticity – of really caring, of believing in principles and in people, and standing up for those beliefs and people – behind all the blustering ballyhoo. I want to believe that there’s a spark – if only the teeniest, tiniest one – of something honest, genuine, sincere – inside of each one of our politicians – as devious,  deceitful, treacherous, pernicious, (use your dictionary), nefarious, vicious, vile  and downright rotten as some of them seem to me to be.

Here’s the test. Recently I saw a clip of a Fox News interview with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has been the driving force for decades for the Republicans to stack the court system, especially by shutting out Obama’s nominee. The reporter asked him-if the Republicans got Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, would he consider that the greatest success of his career? McConnell said, yes, with that and all the lower court judges that the Republicans have appointed during this administration, he would consider it the greatest success of his career. Instead of going off on an internal rant about him, I stopped, relaxed and really looked at him, really listened as he said this. I tried to read his scraggy, old, inscrutable face, to scan his visage for any sign of light at all. I kept asking myself, “Is it in there? Is it in there? Is there something shining inside?” I didn’t see anything, but I lauded myself the effort. And laughed.

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