Society is addicted to drama. When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement the nation was thrown into disarray, fearing the worst but looking forward to the theatrics that would play out at the confirmation hearing of the nominee (you can read an article with some previous thoughts from July 13th by clicking here). Drama lovers have not been disappointed as nominee Brett Kavanaugh finds himself subjected to intense partisanship, bitter questioning, and the exposing his life for all to view.
Last week, observers were treated to the ultimate of theatrics when Senator Diane Feinstein casually mentioned charged being forwarded to the FBI about the nominee, allowing the drama to build before finally revealing what those charges were. On one side, many reached to negate the credibility of certain individuals by calling into question the methodologies used by opponents and the timing of the allegations. Others sought to defend Brett Kavanaugh by noting the significant time lapse between the event and the reporting of the event or justified his actions by noting his age, after all, how many others have behaved so regrettably in high school? Answer: most. And in the midst of this, one person is insisting on the complete truth of the story and the other is insisting on its fabrication.
Regardless of one’s ‘opinion’ about the situation, there is a certain level of truth that must be considered. First, the allegations are serious and therefore warrant a proper investigation. Furthermore, there is much in the story that must be acknowledged for what it is: sin. If the story did indeed occur as the witness claims, then there are serious concerns about underage drinking and making sexual advances toward women, which are not acceptable. If the story proves to be a fabrication meant to disrupt the process, that would also be unacceptable. Because both are asserting the truth of their statements, someone, in this case, is acting in the wrong. We just don’t know who. Regardless, the attitudes and actions of those responding to the situation have turned ugly and force us to consider what it says about who we are as a culture.
Tom Brokaw once wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation.” I’ve not read it fully but intend to. What I have read is a nice celebration of who people are and what they have done to make a difference. Some well-known, others not. Some of the portraits are of celebrities, others are not. If such a book were to be written of modern times it would be “The Graceless Generation” filled with stories of how people are being shamed and lives are being destroyed because there lacks a level of respect when a disagreement arises.
The confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh had revealed this lack of grace in several ways:
The Statute of Limitations:We now live in a culture in which a person is condemned for something done years ago. It does not matter if a person has changed, it matters not if the person regrets that past, and it does not matter whether or not that person has acknowledged and dealt with that. A few years ago when Paula Deen was called out for a comment she had many, many years before, her apology was not enough, the context was not enough, and her current groundings did not matter. All that mattered was that she paid a price, by giving up her very livelihood (her tv show, her organization, and her lifestyle) to appease those who hounded her.
The Prosecution:Because the statute of limitations does not run out, the prosecution moves forward. In this case, it does not occur in a courtroom, but in the public forum of social media, advancing news agendas, and private gossip. Also disconcerting is the fact that the prosecution advances forward with the position of guilty until proven innocent. Only after innocence is proven will opponents back off, but usually by then the damage has been done.
The Verdict: Finally, the character of the verdict in a graceless society is one that focuses on restitution. The mentality is “You owe me (or society)” or “What can I get out of this?”
We should lament that this is the description of our society at the moment.
The context of our society combined with its immediacy has transformed us into one that lacks grace. It does not have to be this, nor should it be this way. Instead, we should always err on the side of grace, which I’ll discuss more about in part two.
Photo “Liberty County Courthouse, Liberty, TX” courtesy of user Patrick Feller and Flickr.