I’ll just come out and say it. I didn’t like watching the Senate confirmation hearings this week, and I don’t understand why they were televised. Televising them brought out the worst in people. The Democrats engaged in grandstanding, theatrics, and virtue signaling to such a degree that I felt embarrassed for them. Somebody had to be. I was embarrassed not only for their behavior but because it was open mike night. There wasn’t a virtuoso among them, including the California contingent and New Jersey’s “Spartacus.”
The hearings reminded me of neighborhood kids putting on a play for their parents. The Democrats didn’t wear capes or tiaras, but they acted childish enough to stomp out of the room when they didn’t get their way and hired underlings to act out until they were thrown out. The Republicans, like dutiful parents trying to make it to the final bows–the vote–stumbled along until Lindsey Graham’s hissy fit at the end.
It is no secret that the sexual assault allegation served only as a vehicle to get to the real issue, which is the Supreme Court seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy. The Democrats are desperate to hold off the Republicans until the midterm elections, when they think they will take back the House, perhaps even the Senate, and save the seat for a liberal justice. It isn’t hard to figure out that Roe v. Wade lurks behind all of this. We have Harry Blackmun and his insistence on abortion as a fundamental right to thank for that. Blackmun, interestingly enough, was nominated by Richard Nixon.
These hearings were ritualized theatre in which Ford and Kavanaugh revealed intimate details about themselves. They disclosed these details on multiple levels. First, to the individual questioner or senator. Then to the Judiciary Committee. Then to the people packed into the meeting room at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. And, finally, to the rest of us around the country who sat mesmerized by our television, computer, or mobile phone screens. In many ways, we had the best seat of all. We saw Ford’s bewildered expressions and Kavanaugh’s sweat as he guzzled glass after glass of bottled water during his opening remarks.
We were voyeurs privy to Ford’s devastation after the alleged assault and Kavanaugh’s revelation about losing his virginity as a young man. By his own admission, he never expected to be talking about his sex life during the hearings. We, however, were thrilled. We peered into the lives of both accuser and accused, but toward what end? To see that they are human beings? Certainly not to come to some rational conclusion about the allegations. Watching raw emotions only produces more emotion, not cool, rational thought. Any rational person would have to conclude that Ford’s allegations do not rise to any level of proof. At this point, it is unlikely another FBI investigation will change that.
Watching the hearings reinforced people’s biases. If you were for Ford, they supported your belief. The same for Kavanaugh. In this sense, they reminded me of the OJ trial, when Judge Ito allowed television cameras into the courtroom, which was a disaster. Why? Because television makes a spectacle of everything. What should have been a serious, dignified experience with a Supreme Court nominee descended into chaos. There’s a reason Lady Justice is portrayed in a blindfold and not a pair of Michael Kors sunglasses.
Our society cares too much for image and dirty laundry. Whether you’re right or wrong depends on how many likes you’ve got. Truth has become another product to market. I say this knowing that democracy can get messy. I’ve studied the French Revolution, read Cicero, and poured over the Federalist Papers. As a teenager, I watched the Watergate hearings with Sam Ervin in his measured, North Carolina drawl. They were televised, but that was in an age before Kim Kardashian.
I don’t expect democracy to be painless or even bloodless. I just don’t want television cameras in the mix, because they can never be neutral or discreet. They don’t record reality, they create it. And because of that, I am reduced to being a fly on the wall, watching, twitching. We all are.
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someone said to me once, “everything that goes through a lens is a lie.” i wish i had taken a picture of that line, it might help provide attribution now. of course if i took a picture of it…
we both know it wasnt intended that literally, but ive always liked the quote (whoever it belongs to originally.) but then i also liked in “v for vendetta” when he said that politicians use truths to lie and artists use lies to tell the truth. seems appropriate enough in this context.
Reminds me of a Bible Passage, ” Dont look at the speck in your neighbor’s eye unless you take the plank out of your own eye first” ! Thanks Rob for food to ponder!
Thank you, Robert. An exquisitely painful day, in weeks of only our most recent national “games.” How would we name these games amid so many games? There have been the games at the border, games of membership in the “evil empire”; North Korea, Iran, Russia, and the United Nation games. Each of these contests with their own “play by play” and “color reporters” and expert commentators.
I was spared the live and “breaking news” of the daytime hours, but not from my awareness of the public pain and humiliation that I knew would be taking place. Is there confusion between the public space and the personal, the personal and the larger human family; all yearning to be heard? But how and where? Must this urgent speaking and listening be turned into contests where blame of the many is assigned to the personal and the reverse?
Thursday was a day of client after client visiting me in search of a psychological report that will describe why this husband and father cannot be deported and separated from his new born child; why this elderly couple may not be separated after 50 years of marriage, 30 years living in the United States and no family remaining in El Salvador, why this mother must not leave her young children with her husband, alone; why cancer, hospice, autism, violence meets the immigration standards for hardship: serious, extreme, exceptional?
I am waiting for a discussion on the national games, the spaces for the personal and the human family. Finally, where were the voices about the care and adult participation in the lives of our adolescents? Messy indeed and so utterly painful.
Thank you for this. I think we’ve lost our sense of privacy and the ability to be alone with our own thoughts/selves. Now, everything has to be “on.” Personally, I’d rather be left alone. I may be the only guy who goes to Vegas and stays away from the Strip…It sounds like you are helping refugees/immigrants. No matter how you cut it–beyond the political debate–it must be a very humiliating experience. I have been thinking about humiliation lately. While we have all but given up on privacy, we have ratcheted up experiences of humiliation. Less privacy, more outward expressions of shame, including looking at dirty laundry. There’s something going on…