I have been hanging around politics for a long time. I have seen bone-headed actions and incredibly courageous moves by politicians of both parties. I have seen the wrong decisions made by an overwhelming majority. I have seen the right decision made by the slimmest of votes. However, I have never, ever seen quite the spectacle that this country witnessed this past week during the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a position on the Supreme Court.
Sometimes there is no obvious answer to our most pressing problems. With that statement, I am likely to offend almost everyone that reads this column. As a country, we have wandered into a Blue and Red divide that leaves no room for debate. For many, if not most, you are either with me or you are against me. It is just that simple.
It is never that simple for me. I used to drive my siblings and my wife crazy by playing the devil’s advocate on just about everything we discussed. You are probably right, but . . . There was always a “but” in my debates.
It was heart wrenching to watch the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. It was equally hard to watch the emotional testimony of Judge Kavanaugh. No one can fake the pain they both felt at that moment. No one would wish to undergo the tortuous process they both had to endure.
I only have daughters and know that had one of them been sexually assaulted 36 years ago, I would never forget no matter when I found out what was done to them. Having said that, I grew up in an extended family full of boys. I remember my high school days, my first beers and the big talk around a locker room.
We all know someone who has been treated poorly on a date or by a friend. Most of us know a sexual assault victim, whether we know it or not. At the same time, many of us know someone that has been accused of a wrongdoing they did not commit.
Life is not easy. There is not always a clear path to the truth. Occasionally the facts just are not there to bring us to an obvious conclusion. When justice is not served, we all lose no matter who we supported in the last election.
The unfortunate media spectacle we have endured in the past few days is so sad for our country. It has diminished the stature of the highest court in our land. It has reduced the already abysmal ratings of the United States Senate. It has literally torn our country apart, one family at a time.
I am most saddened by the vicious comments I have read on Facebook and other social media sites. These are not comments made by the talking heads of the right and the left. The most disturbing comments have been made by people I have known for years, in some cases directed to people they have known since childhood.
If we are honest, most of the arguments we hear have nothing to do with Kavanaugh’s drinking habits or high school behavior. The real debate has to do with his interpretation of the Constitution on these five litmus test issues: abortion and who can have one, guns and who can own them, gay rights and do they deserve them, immigration and are they welcome, and do Americans have the right to health care. It is on these issues that our country and most of its citizens have drawn a line in the sand.
I long for a time when a nominee will be judged on the merit of their judicial sense of fairness, their understanding of the rule of law and their character. I pray one day for a confirmation vote so overwhelmingly positive that the nominee can truly be held in the highest esteem by supporters of both parties.
That day of reconciliation starts with us; we the people. It starts with a recognition that we are the same and different. It starts with an awareness that winning at the ballot box is not as important as winning at the bench of justice. It starts with understanding that for better or worse, we are Americans first and Democrats or Republicans second.
Make no mistake that regardless of how this nomination turns out, we have all lost. We can do better. We must do better. We must demand better.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org