I am compelled to comment on the foreboding aura prevailing in America’s politics and culture. The most recent reflection of that aura is the shrill rhetoric of the ultra-right world around the nomination of and Senate hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was named to replace retiring Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen Breyer.
By all accounts, most legal and judicial authorities consider Judge Jackson eminently qualified, perhaps among the most qualified ever nominated to the court. While recent hearings for Supreme Court nominees have unfortunately provided a forum for political theater, this hearing seemed much meaner in its tenor. The effort by several Republican senators, voicing the baseness of the ultra-right world, to demean Judge Jackson’s record and character was clear in questioning that was followed by discourteous interruptions, thereby denying her the opportunity to answer. This was not fact finding; rather, it was posturing to appeal to the falsehoods of the ultra-right base. Clearly the winner, Judge Jackson handled the meanness and rudeness with patience, grace, and composure.
Repeating untruths loudly and often is a tactic that can be as effective at creating a point of view or a following as can telling the truth. Witness the historical successes of past dictators, as well as some current and want-to-be despots, who practiced that tactic, a tactic now followed by the ultra-right faction controlling and speaking for the Republican Party. That once-great party, which rose from the idealism and hopeful vision of Lincoln but now vilifies moderate Republican members in Congress, is history.
To those who are observant, who have an understanding of historical context, and who believe in the American experiment in democracy that has fostered an evolving and improving human condition, the ultra-right faction presents an ugly, insensitive and intolerant view of the world, reflecting a profound meanness of spirit and a lack of faith in the democratic form of governance. It is a threat to America that only a vigilant, fully informed and voting citizenry can stop.
–James M. Vaughn