Following weeks of visceral hearings and protests, Brett Kavanaugh was finally sworn in as a Supreme Court justice last Saturday. Like millions across this country and over the world, I found the events almost too overwhelming to grapple with. The Kavanaugh charade and the grim outcome of the process constituted a brutal assault on nearly every principle I hold dear. Like many, I feel enraged by the shamelessness and hypocrisy of senators. I am furious about the sham FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. I’m mind-blown by the fact that the man was confirmed before hundreds of thousands of documents were released about his time serving under President Bush, during which he allegedly facilitated illegal surveillance and torture. I replay in my head the blunt and unapologetic partisanship Kavanaugh exhibitedduring his testimony, and his vulgar, aggressive behaviour which, on its own, was enough to disqualify him not only as a Supreme Court judge but as any type of judge whatsoever.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover it. I am appalled that the president had the audacity to apologise to Kavanaugh on behalf of the people and present him as the victim of women. I’m sickened by the fact that during a rally last week he had mocked Dr. Ford, adding in a cheap theatrical bit that it is a dangerous time to be a man in this country (and that people cheered in response!). I’m tired of the Democrats’ nonexistent leadership—their lack of action and initiative. And that just opens up an entire pandora box of anger and frustration: what about the ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ comment? How the hell did we forget about that? How can a criminal like Trump defend a punk like Kavanaugh and even be taken seriously? And what about his collusion with Putin and his tax fraud and the EPA going nuclear on the environment and the Muslim ban and separated migrant children and what the hell is even going on here anymore.
But in order to process and sift through the barrage of infuriating and terrifying news, I had to expand my gaze for a moment and try to understand what are some of the underlying issues which, in the midst of this chaos, we may fail to acknowledge.
I found that there were several layers worth examining. Focusing on the Kavanaugh issue, one of the main allegations directed at him, even before it turned out he’s a sexual predator, was his undeniable political bias. Many have been, rightfully, pointing fingers at the Republican establishment, blaming them for decades of packing the courts with conservative judges, which leads to a complete political imbalance in favour of the right. While this is true, one must think, what is the alternative? Packing the courts with liberal judges? Would it spawn a ‘fair’ judicial system? Or would it simply result in bias from the other direction? And so the real question is, under the current circumstances, when justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, can the Supreme Court truly fulfil its intended function? Can a judicial body that is so deeply entangled with politics be expected to constitute a neutral and impartial arbiter? The mere fact that justices are labeled as liberal and conservative is distorted and troubling in my opinion; that their judgement, for the most part, is predictable. Every judge should be considered a ‘swing vote’. Perhaps, then, the discussion more Americans should be having is how can they challenge and alter a judicial mechanism that proves so utterly dysfunctional.
Yet, if we expand our gaze even further, we come to realise there is a much more basic issue underlying all of this: the absurdity of a binary political system. People are complex beings, their opinions and beliefs vary on a wide range of issues. If we were to look carefully we’d realise that many registered Republicans identify with some ideals that are typically associated with the left, and vice versa. Yet, by maintaining a political system that divides people into two distinctive groups, we limit and stifle their power to engage in profound and critical analysis of events, forcing them to adhere to the role prescribed by their party and its professed principles (which usually serve the interests of the powerful and wealthy, not those of the people).
Human society isn’t as fragmented as we often perceive it to be. I truly believe that at the end of the day most of us share a common urge to live and prosper. Yet our failure to recognise this unity leads to the pain we experience. The election of Kavanaugh and the battle over it are, to a great extent, a result of a tribalist worldview according to which we must huddle under some form of leadership that would protect Us from the Other, forcing ourselves to align with an ideology or a political party that ultimately doesn’t reflect our true values and character. Deconstructing such separatist perceptions begins with personal introspection and soul-searching while trying to abandon a blind commitment to labels such as Republican and Democrat as we engage in conversation with one another. Ultimately, this conceptual, but not utopic, transformation could very well reflect the way people vote and, more crucially, the manner in which those who are voted in construct their political ideology.