In thinking of the alleged crimes of SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I find myself wrestling with a thorny issue: one that has been seen over and over again in the long list of sexual predators who have been revealed (or accused) in the recent past.
To begin with, let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Any sexual crime, no matter how seemingly minor it is (or was), nor how long ago, nor whom the aggressors (or victims) were, is precisely that: a crime. It must be treated as such. It is NOT something to be swept under the rug, nor hidden, nor ignored. Those who are the victims of such crimes – no matter how fragmentary and disjointed their memories seem to be – must be heard. They must be treated with respect, with compassion, with impartiality, and without prejudgment as to who they are, or how valid or invalid of a person (or victim) others may portray them to be.
Frankly, any victim of oppression must always be presumed to be telling the truth – until proven otherwise. Our first and foremost duty is to immediately see them, hear them, and protect them, They must be kept safe, and feel safe, from further aggression by either the original oppressor / abuser, or from the attacks of others.
And that leads me to my main point, which is a twofold concern.
By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the accusation being laid at the feet of Judge Kavanaugh during the Senate’s Confirmation hearings for his nomination to the Supreme Court. Namely, that at age 17, while “stumbling drunk,” he attempted to rape a then 15 year old young woman.
As we know, the Republicans are crying “Foul” because this accusation was revealed at almost the last minute before the Committee was to vote on whether to recommend that the Senate as a whole approve Kavanugh’s nomination.
Democrats have been saying all along that the process the GOP is using (what there is of it) egregiously flouts both the written and unwritten rules and guidelines that have always guided the process: shutting out all opposing or questioning voices from the process in a rush to get another conservative seated on the Court while Republicans still have control of the Senate.
As I (and many others) see it, it is more than a bit disingenuous for the GOP to call “foul” at the Democrat’s attempt to throw a wrench in the process when the GOP did exactly that with wild aplomb with regards to the nominations of hundreds of Judges for years – until they had control of both the Senate and the White House. A case in point being President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
So, the GOP will get no sympathy from me on this. To put it another way, “What goes around comes around.”
That being said, the real heart of the matter is how one should respond to Professor Blasey Ford’s claim of Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of her.
This is an essay I wrote a few years ago (with a few minor edits). Given how fractious and judgmental our interactions with others have become, it seemed helpful to share these cherished memories of a lovely – if eccentric – friend….
– Pastor Allen
Although I may not have a lot to say about my ex-wife, one quality of hers that I admired was her ability and willingness to reach out to others from all walks of life. Today, I’m particularly remembering the friendship she initiated with “Old George”.
Old George was a bitter, foul-mouthed old man who lived in a very cheap apartment near the center of Rochester, MN in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. (I am not denigrating the owner of that building, who had a personal mission to provide low cost housing for those who in Rochester had no other place to go, but that’s a story for another time.)
He spent most of his time in and around the downtown of our hometown at the time: Rochester, MN – or at the nearby Apache Mall. He rode his old bike each day to and from his apartment. He always dressed the same: a worn and heavy coat apparently made from lambskin which was held closed with an old rope tied around his waist. Completing his outfit were rarely washed worn pants, a flannel shirt, and old shoes.
I enjoyed working as a dishwasher in my teens, and still do. Nowadays I’m often the first one of our family to get out of bed, and use my time alone in the kitchen for finishing up any dishes not done the night before, as well as cleaning the counters & stove top, emptying the dishwasher, putting things away, etc. It’s relaxing; and a meditative, creative time & activity for me. (I’ve written many a sermon or blog post in my head while washing dishes, including this one!)
Some part of me – as with most people, I suspect – really enjoys making things neat, clean, and well ordered. When all is done, there’s a sense of accomplishment. We’re ready for a new day. All is right with the world.
My wife and I have this little private joke, which seems to happen at least once a week: As I’m finishing with my morning kitchen cleanup and putting away the last dish – excited at the prospect of having everything DONE in just a few more seconds, I’ll hear a light “thunk” behind me and turn around to see her placing a dirty glass next to the sink. She chuckles and walks away. I chuckle, too. Sometimes I’ll be a little dramatic: “Oh God, NOT AGAIN!!!”
A recent NY Times article (“Behind Trump’s Program to Overhaul the Government: Scaling Back the Safety Net“) describes how the current administration is seeking to restructure social welfare programs “in a way that would make them easier to cut, scale back or restructure.”
The people of Gaza have made it clear that all they want is jobs, food, adequate sanitation and healthcare, a safe place to raise their children. They want some hope for their future; something more than the hopeless and meaningless lives they now have.
The recent events in Gaza are distressing, to say the least: thousands of Gazans attempting to cross the border into Israel, protesting the inhumane conditions in Gaza. Scores of them murdered by members of the Israeli Defense Forces. Many of us have seen the videos of IDF soldiers cheering when a sniper shoots a protestor. We’ve seen people in Israel celebrating the slaughter of their Palestinian neighbors.
This whole situation is disturbing on multiple levels.
For one, many Jews (not all Jews) are seeing and treating their Palestinian cousins as animals: celebrating their deaths, taking their land, murdering and imprisoning those who resist or protest, giving no credence whatsoever to any of the concerns and voices being raised in protest to how Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli State, blind to the injustices that they themselves are visiting upon their neighbors. They’ve become indistinguishable from the genocidal regimes and individuals that were responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of Jews in WWII (and before).
In 1 Kings chapter 2, the Hebrew Bible speaks of the bloody purge commanded by King Solomon at the start of his reign. One of the young King’s targets was Joab.
Joab had been David’s most capable commander: ruthless, zealous, and without an ounce of compassion. He seemed to be intensely loyal to the Monarchy, but that did not necessarily mean he was blindly obedient to the King. For instance, a few years earlier he had killed David’s rebellious son, Absalom against David’s wishes; and he killed a rival (and his own cousin) Amasa, whom David had appointed to replace Joab. Finally, when David died, Joab made the mistake of supporting a rival claimant to the throne, David’s son Adonijah, instead of David’s [apparent] choice, Solomon. Not a nice guy, to say the least!
Once he became aware that a purge was taking place, Joab fled to the Tent of the Ark of the Tabernacle, claiming Sanctuary as others had done before him – including David himself. Upon hearing this, Solomon ordered his new General to kill him anyway; and so Benaiah went into the Temple and slaughtered Joab there.
The modern “Sanctuary” movement embodies this same concept: we can (and should) offer sanctuary to those fleeing injustice. On the other hand, we cannot (and should not) provide sure sanctuary to those fleeing justice.
In my little New England hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, this very question is on the ballot in this coming weekend’s Town Meeting: shall we as a town adopt a resolution declaring we are a “Welcoming, Safe Town which resolves to make all residents, workers and visitors feel safe and secure regardless of immigration status.”
Our current economic and social imbalances rob people of their dreams, and it is dreams that we need to have hope for the future. Our dreams embody our hopes; but if there is no hope then all we have is our nightmares.
The “Starman Tesla” we’ve all heard about in the news has caused quite a stir. Elon Musk’s launching of his own personal Red Tesla Roadster into space with “Starman” – a Spacesuit-clad dummy – at the wheel has captured the imaginations of many, producing innumerable new internet memes.
On the other hand, a fair number of Progressives and those involved in social justice have pointed to this as a prime example of the imbalances in today’s economy and society. They say that Billionaires like Elon Musk are throwing away money when they do things like this. They feel that this is another example of how out of balance our society is – too much money at the top, and not enough for people to meet basic needs, even for many who once saw themselves as “middle class.” And yet, going too far down that path can lead to error – as it did with Judas the Betrayer of Jesus.
Even so, they have a point: our society is out of balance.