October 3, 2018
I often feel that I need to perform a very delicate balancing act as I pen these weekly essays. I’m a Canadian, and so I don’t feel I have the right to comment on the affairs of a country that is not my own. I can’t imagine that many of you who are my readers and are Americans would appreciate my poking my nose into your politics, and so for the most part, I don’t.
These are very turbulent times in which we find ourselves. Looking at modern society here in North America, I have to say our social behavior has not been at its best, lately. The Internet and Face Book and Twitter have, in many ways, dissolved the borders between us, but they have also dissolved the norms of manners, civility, and veracity. When we’re simply writing words on an electronic device, we can pretend to be whoever we want to be, and we can also pretend that the rules of polite society do no apply to us. After all, there’s no one in our face to tell us otherwise.
The relative anonymity of the Internet has allowed people to leave their civilized self behind and let their inner savage flow. It would seem that sitting at home, with our fingers on the keys does something to dissolve our personal filters.
The truth is that human behavior is human behavior regardless of nationality or political affiliation. Good manners are good manners and truth is truth—oh yes, it is! And it doesn’t matter on which side of the 49th parallel one lives. There are core realities that apply to everyone, everywhere.
One day last week there was an “event” unfolding on television, a real “reality Television” event. I’ve chosen to call this event “A Tale of Two Testimonies.” It was, for many of us, a difficult spectacle to watch.
Act one was heartbreaking, because to listen was to hear pain—raw, traumatic emotional pain that despite the passage of time has not healed. It’s a pain that will never heal completely. And for many, that testimony evoked memories of a personal pain that the viewer had endured. Anyone who has been sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed, or has a loved one to whom this has happened, keenly identified with that pain. Act one as it played out was real, visceral, and credible. For those with open minds—or as Another put it in a book I’m fond of, for those who had ears to hear—act one brought them, figuratively, to their knees.
Act two—for me—was the most shocking of the two. The level of anger and hate made me step back, emotionally. All I could think was, what would this hate filled, angry and belligerent person be like, drunk? Having, through the course of my life been at the hands of an angry, belligerent drunk, the image made my blood run cold. It brought back memories I didn’t want to remember.
The vitriol unleashed during act two spread out and became a contagion, infecting others, until the entire proceedings, at that point, devolved into a name calling, accusation hurling free-for-all, with the filth being aimed by angry men in one direction, and one direction only.
Now, back to that human behavior that is common to us all. There are norms of human behavior. Norms we all recognize and for the most part abide by. You wouldn’t walk down Main Street in your home town, naked; you wouldn’t defecate on the sidewalk. You wouldn’t hold a gun on someone and demand their wallet because you were short of cash; you wouldn’t try to haul another driver out of their car to punch them because they may have cut you off in traffic.
Oh, people do these things, and we see them on the news, but they are not normal acts, and they all have legal consequences.
You don’t sexually assault a person—you don’t kiss them or put hands on them without their consent. Whether you’re a student in high school, the box boy at the grocery store, the clerk at a cosmetics counter, a member of an elected body, or a member of the clergy or the judiciary, you do not do these things.
And if you’re a witness to someone behaving with as much anger, vitriol and partisanship as I witnessed in Act Two of “A Tale of Two Testimonies”, then the question you need to ask yourself is not, “is this anger justified”. Often, anger is justified, and it can even be righteous. As a mother I was on occasion moved to real, deep anger, anger incited by one or the others of my children (believe me, they all had a turn at that). Now, if in response to my anger I decided to do things to “get back” at them over the course of time, then I wouldn’t have been considered a person with the temperament to be a parent.
No, if you’ve been a witness to behavior as shown in act two, the question you need to ponder is whether or not a person possessing the kind of temperament we saw in that hearing room is the kind of person you want imbued with the responsibilities and privileges of being an associate justice of the highest court in the land.
And that’s before we even discuss if a documented liar is suited for that position. Long story short under that heading, lying under oath is a disqualifying quality, period.