Death Threats

“Work hard, play hard, pray hard, but most of all, be a good guy!” is the motto of Mater Dei, the independent Catholic school Brett Kavanaugh attended as a boy before moving on to Georgetown Prep in ninth grade.   It is a good motto.  If you do all those things, especially the last one, you will be a credit to your loved ones and a gift to your community.     

Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school (founded in 1789) and if you spend some time on their website you will learn a little bit about the guiding philosophy of the Jesuits. The principles of Ignatian spirituality seem simple and straightforward.  If you believe that God is in every person you meet, you will treat every precious soul you encounter in the gentlest possible way.  Every interaction is a chance to reaffirm your connection with your creator.   I wish, based solely on the beautiful ideas I read under Georgetown Prep’s Spiritual Life tab, that the world operated that way, by the admirably high principles of Ignatius of Loyola. [1]  

I write this on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur.  God is up there with his unfathomably gigantic Book of Life, pondering the fate each of us deserve for the coming year, according to the tradition.   On this day Jews all over the world fast, many also gather in temples, trembling and praying.    I don’t have much use for many parts of the tradition, or prayer, and most of the 613 commandments supposedly ordered by God leave me cold, as do the jealousy and the over-the-top rages of our All-Merciful God expressed in the problematic Good Book.   There is an essence of my spiritual heritage that I take very seriously:  trying to make amends when I know I have caused harm and identifying with the weak, the poor, the powerless, the persecuted.  

The larger point, of course, is that it is very easy for us humans to speak words, to write them, to array them beautifully, powerfully, to argue our most cherished beliefs using them.   The much harder thing is how you actually put those beliefs into action.   No society, no intimate club or family, for that matter, ever boasts of being founded on principles of love, generosity, hypocrisy, secrecy and duplicity.   Everyone loves love, and generosity is a beautiful thing.   The devil, however, lives in the details, the devil loves him some details.  Those sticky details we generally do not discuss, as we extoll the things we love and believe in, steer away from things that stir us unpleasantly.  

Does anything about the beauty of Ignatian principles change if we learn that Ignatius meant that only people who have accepted the divinity of Jesus Christ are imbued with the divine spirit?    What was the role of the early Jesuits, if any, in the infamous Spanish Inquisition?   

On the other hand, Jesuits are known for their intellectual rigor and a commitment to justice.  How can you not want to do justice if you see the spark of God in every person you meet?  

I don’t hold Brett Kavanaugh to the standards of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whatever those impossibly high standards for canonization may have been.   We are all people, with needs, wants, flaws.  I don’t even want to bring the entitled Mr. Kavanaugh into the conversation at all today, or any day.   I dislike his rigid, right-wing partisanship.  I despise his smug evasiveness, the way he appears to think he’s the smartest man in the room.  I think he is pretty clearly, in the vernacular, a piece of shit as a spiritual person, at the very least a hypocrite (based on his rulings and the tiny fraction of his writings we’ve seen).   It appears to me he learned nothing from the Jesuits but making arguments.  But that is between him and Jesus, and not my place to even opine about.

But you are a federal judge, after attending all the finest schools money can buy, after membership in the right wing Federalist Society, after being an extreme partisan lawyer working to impeach and convict a so-called liberal president for lying about a blow job, then a partisan lawyer advising the Bush/Cheney White House during some troubling years of torture, kidnapping, illegal wiretapping, extrajudicial murder, transfer of wealth to the wealthiest,  attempts to shred the social safety net, initiation of an endless, borderless war against those, everywhere, who hate our freedom, and as a federal judge. appointed by the extremists you worked for, you rule, in virtually every case, for the rights of the powerful and against the rights of the weak.  Not very goddamned Christian of you, I’d say.

Donald Trump’s people figured out exactly which districts they needed to win to prevail in the Electoral College.  They got those crucial districts, every one of them.   The number of votes, maybe 100,000 (he won the 16 electors of Michigan by a whopping 10,740 perfectly placed votes, a 0.23% margin), don’t matter, he won, even if he also lost nationally by nearly 3,000,000 votes.  Fair and square, he won fair and square under our current federal election rules, let’s even stipulate to that.   In office Trump has appeared to be mostly a jackass, OK, always a jackass.  Not only tone deaf and morally retarded, but a compulsive liar who only seems comfortable when bragging outrageously to adoring campaign rally crowds.  He can’t help himself.

As long as Trump is in office doing their bidding the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, the true believers, will ride that donkey as far as he will take them.  He has already delivered uber-conservative Justice for Life Neil Gorsuch (Georgetown Prep, class of ’85 — Kavanaugh, class of ’83), appointed a record number of other Federalist Society endorsed federal judges, rammed through a generous tax break for our nation’s wealthiest.  The rest of the Republicans will ride him hard, as far as he goes before hubris blows him up.   Our politicians are not known for showing great integrity, or any devotion to principles higher than staying in office, sad to say. 

The Koch Brothers understand the nature of our democratic system and have been playing a long game, with no expense spared to tilt the playing field the way it advantages them most to tilt it.  If you control all state governments and the Supreme Court, the small group that decides what is legal and what is illegal as far as the law of the land, that’s pretty much checkmate.

If you don’t believe that, look at the aftermath of the Civil War.   Amendments were added to change our constitution from one that legally protected the rights of slaveholders to one much closer to the inspiring words of the Author of Liberty (and father of several mulatto slaves) that this nation was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  Endowed by our creator, of course, with unalienable rights and so on.   The most important of the three wartime amendments, the Fourteenth, was intended to extend the protections of the federal government to the citizens of every state, particularly in the former slave states that had recently taken up arms against the United States.  In other words, the 14th amendment was enacted to make sure no state could infringe anyone’s rights as an American citizen.   The federal government would intervene to protect those rights, under laws made pursuant to the 14th Amendment.

Enter the Supreme Court, six years after the 14th Amendment was ratified.  They made the “intent of the framers” of the Fourteenth Amendment clear in a way those framers, less than a decade earlier, could never have imagined.   For almost a century after the Supreme Court was done ruling on it, the Fourteenth Amendment was rendered useless to citizens subjected to every kind of indignity and brutality under cover of state law.  During the century the 14th amendment was in a judicially induced coma for individuals, it was used, exclusively, by corporations, to establish their rights as persons, just as important in our democracy (to the Robber Barons and their impeccable ilk) as those unvindicatable rights of the many anonymous persons who were being lynched, terrorized, paid unfair wages, re-enslaved under state law, etc.  

The Supreme Court gets the last word, and that word can last for a hundred years before it is corrected, generations later, by activists backed by brilliant and dogged lawyers who successfully fight to overturn precedent.

The Supreme Court gets the unappealable last word in our democratic scheme. An openly anti-democratic president is attempting to pack the court with his extreme choices before the curtain comes down on his corrupt administration.   Trump got into office with glib promises to make everybody’s head spin about how much we are all winning.   Things are not looking great for the persecuted billionaire populist at the moment, people close to him have been disloyally turning on him during a long witch hunt by a disloyal Republican named Mueller.  There is no time to waste, not a penny of political capital to be squandered.  He needs to get this second Supreme Court appointment done in record time, before the midterms that his party could lose bigly.  Getting a second extreme right wing judge on to the Supreme Court would do wonders for energizing his base, making their heads spin.

The confirmation hearing for Kavanaugh was arranged with extreme haste, scheduled for the first available slot.  A ridiculous and unprecedented 90% of Kavanaugh’s documents were not given to the Judiciary Committee for inspection. There were probably things in there better for the Committee not to see before questioning him, before voting to confirm him.   42,000 pages of his documents were made available to the Committee three hours before the hurried hearings began (technically delivered the evening before, they took many hours to download on government servers).  The main thing was to confirm him fast.

Now a woman steps forward, reluctantly but bravely it seems, to testify that the prep school aged Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.  Her claim appears to be credible, it did not come up only recently, she has been suffering with the traumatic memory for some time, spoke to a marriage counselor about it in 2012.  Immediately after the woman came forward a letter signed by 65 women who encountered Kavanaugh when he was at the all boys prep school appeared on the judicial committee’s website, praising his sterling character, his great respect for women, how unthinkable it is that he might ever have tried to rape anyone.  You can read that letter now, the link is at the bottom of this list of public documents on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination  (go to September 7 for the Kavanaugh list, Letters Received, the last one is this letter).

There is nothing in it for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, except to prevent a man of questionable character, and perfect extreme right wing bona fides from being appointed to the highest court for life.   A Supreme Court Justice who will, among other things, provide the deciding vote to overturn the federal right of a woman to choose what to do about her pregnancy, from making unappealable right wing decisions on the Supreme Court for the rest of her lifetime.   Think of the 14th Amendment.  Every civil rights case in the country since 1963 has been brought under a law enacted to enforce the 14th Amendment, but for the previous ninety years– y’all shit out of luck, losers.

Not every young man has tried to rape someone, it takes a certain type, even if he is stumbling drunk.   The percentage of such types may be slightly higher in elite private schools, perhaps, where such youthful indiscretions are dealt with discreetly in-house, if they ever come up at all, to preserve the young man’s options later in life, but I don’t believe even among students of our finest schools most young men at some point attempt rape.  It takes a special kind of boy, who grows into a certain kind of man.  A dick.

The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee insist they are being incredibly fair to the woman who claims she was victimized so many years ago by a young would-be rapist of sterling character.   They’ve set up an immediate session for her to give her sworn testimony against the sworn rebuttal of the next Justice of the Supreme Court.   They are being very generous, they claim, letting her immediately confront her alleged victimizer, and doing it in a way that won’t unfairly hurt the man’s chances of being immediately confirmed before the midterms.  They are certainly being generous, the 85 year old asshole chairman, Chuck Chuck Bobuck Grassley and the equally hoary 84 year-old Orin Hatch, with their intimidation, bullying and ultimatum making.

Recall, the other day these same Republican toadies were refusing to make Kavanaugh answer questions about the alleged sexual assault under oath.  Then, in the interest of every appearance of fairness they said both the alleged victim and the alleged assaulter would both be under oath, on the earliest possible date, Monday, September 24, as long as she responds in full, with her complete written testimony, by 10 a.m September 21.  Fair is fair.  Need to keep this fine Christian’s confirmation on schedule, we’re on a tight schedule as the president may need another ally on the high court, an undefeatable block of right wingers not subject to appeal or being voted out, very soon, to rule in his favor on his potential troubles..

Meantime Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers have made the next move in the chess game.   They are demanding an FBI investigation to have an independent opinion on the credibility of Dr. Ford’s accusation.  This is exactly what Hatch and Grassley publicly endorsed in the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas situation– a required FBI investigation, something that apparently would take only a few days.   Trump announced blandly that the FBI doesn’t do these kinds of investigations, “they don’t do that, that’s not what they do”.  Turns out he was talking out of his ass.  The FBI regularly does these kinds of background investigations, they generally take only a few days.   The current chairman of the committee said loudly in 1991 that this was the only proper way to conduct a hearing of this sort, after an FBI investigation.  But things have changed for the doddering old fuck, now there is tremendous urgency to get the finest man ever nominated for the Supreme Court immediately into his new robes.

SO UNFAIR!   If Trump doesn’t get Kavanaugh in there by the midterms, he will lose face, a lot of political capital, his base will be deflated instead of energized right before this crucial election that could decide his fate, the fate of what he was sent to Washington to do.  So fucking unfair!  Fake news, fake accusers, fake outrage, fake hypocrisy, fake fakeness!!   Amonynous, really, an ominous cowardice.

Of course, living in the violent charnel house that is now the USA, Dr. Ford has predictably  received credible death threats from violent partisan morons.  Her family had to move out of their house, is now in hiding.  But fair is fair, you come to the Senate first thing Monday morning, Dr. Ford, and we’ll see who the country believes in a high-pressure, nationally televised swearing contest, you, the so-called victim of long ago attempted drunken sexual violence or the wonderful family man, girl’s basketball couch and believer in Christian and American values, the defender of all that is holy and good, the impeccably pedigreed Brett Kavanaugh.

They have to get this confirmation done before anything else bad happens in the days leading up to the fast approaching midterms.   Their slim majority in Congress could be washed away in this shit storm midterm and who can say how much mortal peril America’s fetuses would be in then, if Democrats controlled the Senate, without another true believer on the Court?!   What kind of accuser is this, who needs some kind of external assurance of a fair chance to be heard before she will rush across the country to Washington D.C. go toe to toe, on live national television, with someone poised to be one of the most powerful men in America?!!   HOW DARE SHE.

When Anita Hill took the stand to accuse Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, Thomas was expected to receive ninety confirmation votes in the Senate.  The men on the Senate Judiciary Committee (all men) treated Anita Hill very badly, accused her of erotomania, treated her as a hostile witness.  In the end, even after the shitshow of dickish behavior by the Committee toward Anita Hill, Thomas was confirmed 52-48, the smallest margin for a Supreme Court nominee in a century.  

Today there are several women on the Judiciary Committee (all Democrats) and the questioning of Christine Blasey Ford, should it take place under these artificially pressurized terms, will have a much different tone than the hostility Anita Hill faced.  Donald Trump can get away with his in-your-face misogyny, people expect it from him, it’s his brand, he’s a pig (and a very useful idiot, in the short run, to the billionaires who made sure he won the Electoral College).   Chuck Grassley, Orin Snatch and John Cornyn will get no such pass if they try to act like dicks, it won’t play well, except to the 38% who think Trump is doing a heck of a job.  

There are six Republican Senators in the Senate today (though we only hear of two, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the rest are from the former Confederacy, Nebraska and Iowa, and so impervious to moral suasion it would appear).  If only two or three of them are moved by the testimony of a woman almost raped by an entitled preppie now about to assume the nation’s most powerful lifetime post, deciding what rights women will have… well, you can do the math.  

I am looking forward to the next scene in this soap opera.  I think these pious men of the right, and the women who support them, may be overstepping here in this #metoo moment.  I am hoping Christine Blasey Ford and her lawyers make the right chess moves and keep this partisan hack off the Supreme Court.  If she does, Dr. Blasey Ford will be remembered as a national hero.   A live national confrontation about character and decency is our only hope, at this perilous moment for our democracy.

 

 

[1]  What little I just learned about this sainted 16th century leader of a Catholic society created to defend the Pope’s infallibility contained not a shred of the spiritual legacy discussed on the Georgetown Prep website, but that’s a secular version for you.   What to make of this picture?   The man was a soldier for Christ, clearly, or… maybe not.

Ignatius_of_Loyola_(militant).jpg

Should any of the following disqualify him for sainthood, after the devoted work he later did for his Lord?

As a young man Íñigo had a great love for military exercises as well as a tremendous desire for fame. He framed his life around the stories of El Cid, the knights of Camelot, and the Song of Roland.[12] He joined the army at seventeen, and according to one biographer, he strutted about “with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist”.[13] According to another he was “a fancy dresser, an expert dancer, a womanizer, sensitive to insult, and a rough punkish swordsman who used his privileged status to escape prosecution for violent crimes committed with his priest brother at carnival time.”[14] Upon encountering a Moor who denied the divinity of Jesus, he challenged him to a duel to the death, and ran him through with his sword.[13] He dueled many other men as well.[13]

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