Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lurid Discourse

It all started when Donald Trump entered the national consciousness. All notions of etiquette and decency were discarded and a new era in American political discourse was ushered in. When we heard the now jarring infamous phrase, "Grab'em by the pussy" uttered by the would be president of the United States, the rapid corrosion of American politics had begun. And that which once was unacceptable had now begun to be brushed aside as "locker room" banter, something men have always engaged in, and not to be seen as a blemish on their character. As character was no longer consequential.

The ascent of Donald Trump, unabashedly brought to the fore the grotesque patterns of male sexual behavior. Nineteen women accused Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior. They were all ignored and Donald Trump was voted in as the president of the United States and still enjoys significant support. He certainly was not the first candidate with a checkered past to rise to power. But his rise was a stark reflection of the moral and cultural decline that had taken place within America, which would begin to dictate the course of events of come.

For a nation addicted to social media and individuals defining their self worth more and more by their digital interactions, facts have become secondary. People choose to believe what they hear in their echo chambers, which are strewn with conspiracy theories and lies.

As a response to a toxic culture in flux, was born the #metoo movement which sought to destroy the long standing careers of powerful men across all spheres. Men finally began to be held accountable for sexual impropriety. Men with power, wealth and stature were eviscerated by the gathering storm, as evidence and allegations began to pile up from decades ago. It seemed the time when improper sexual behavior was considered entitled and passable, had come to a grinding halt.

So when Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a man whose conservative views on issues affecting women were deeply divisive and controversial, it was inevitable that he would become a lightning rod for the #metoo movement sweeping the nation. Even though he took extraordinary measures to present himself as a model father to his daughters, a caring husband and god fearing compassionate constitutional judge, many did not find him worthy of a life time position on the highest court.

On the other side the Republicans saw him as their chance in a generation to turn the Supreme Court decidedly conservative for decades to come. Knowing they had the votes to accomplish this, they wanted to hurry through the formalities and send him on to the vacant bench as soon as possible. The previous Donald Trump nominee, Niel Gorsuch, was confirmed strictly along party lines without a hitch. With the mid-term elections around the corner, the need for a hurried confirmation seemed even more urgent.

Despite the Democratic party senators unanimous disapproval of him, he was close to being confirmed, when allegations of sexual misconduct emerged. As a teenager and a Yale law student, it seemed Brett Kavanaugh was not your model citizen, he would otherwise like you to believe. According to his accusers, he seemed to have had a drinking problem and a pattern of behaving badly with women. Growing up in the 80s in an all boys and probably all white prep school, Kavanaugh was being the teenager we saw portrayed in the movies of the time, such as Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. 

While he claimed he spent most of his time studying and lifting weights at the gym, the calendar he presented as evidence seemed to reveal an active social life. Should what he did as a teenager and young student be a deciding factor in his nomination? Some say "yes", as it fundamentally says something about his character. Others felt his behavior as a young man had no baring, as he had done enough to compensate and be held in high regard as a judge.

But in the era of Donald Trump and in the shadow of the #metoo movement, it clearly was not enough. A seat at the United States Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, therefore the stakes are high and therefore there is a valuable argument to be made that the person who fills this position, not just have a stellar judicial record but also be of immaculate personal character.

As Brett Kavanaugh mounted an angry and belligerent defense at the senate hearing, accusing the Democrats and the media of launching a smear campaign hell bent on destroying his family and his reputation, he was off kilter, and vociferously used his personal pain to proclaim himself innocent. As a result he showed a temperament that was deeply unsettling, revealing his own biases and stark political leanings, which did not bode well for someone wanting to become - at least in appearance - a nonpartisan judge-in-chief of the land.

While he was successful in coming across as convincing and credible to the people on his side, he ended up alienating his detractors even more than before. While he was sympathetic to his accuser, as she came across as credible to everyone who watched her, he categorically proclaimed she suffered from a case of "mistaken identity".

In the end the disgusting, deplorable but riveting drama that unfolded, was a sad display of where America has arrived as a nation. Reality-TV had now reached the Senate, under the watchful eye of a Reality-TV president. The shocking and unsettling nature of the details that emerged and how nonchalantly they were spoken about in the media and in the Senate was appalling. All filters were off, supposedly in an attempt to get to the sordid truth, as dirty laundry was aired to an unfazed glued nation.

In the end the Republicans had to relent as one of their own would not play along. The FBI investigation that was being asked for all along by the Democrats was granted under duress. The nomination was put on hold for a week for the FBI to investigate the allegations. The scope of the FBI investigation will be narrow as the Republicans are still committed to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as soon as possible. If it is determined that he lied under oath, only then will his nomination be suspended, otherwise the Republicans are on track to achieving their goal with a minor hiccup.

The lurid discourse around Brett Kavanaugh and his accusers, once again exposed how divided America has become. Some say it has not been this divided since the civil war. From late night talk show hosts to blaring news media pundits and talk-radio, there is a complete contrast in how the discourse is reported and presented and how people perceive what is transpiring.

Alternate realities that disregard all facts, and the constant barrage of harsh words only make people more hardened about how they view the political landscape. As the salaciousness intensifies and all the filters are discarded, it is unnerving to fathom the impact this lurid discourse is having on the younger generation. A cancer is slowly metastasizing as a result of normalizing the abnormal.

It is what it is.

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