American governance is not always about higher principle, truth and justice.
This week I have watched Brent Kavanaugh’s saga developing. Every effort is being made by some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to move away from judicial qualifications and focus on a nearly 40-year-old commentary.
This form of argument is reductio ad absurdum. It defeats the opposition’s case because the argument (in my opinion) moves from lofty principal to a petty, absurd analysis of 1981 slang and casual commentary.
But there is much more relating directly to resilience and durable truths.
Believe All Women
The powerful-push-back to Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes from raised women’s movement strength captured in the statement “Believe All Women.”
Bari Weiss in a 2017 article reviews the status of the movement. The concern expressed by Bari Weiss is that ultimately any universal becomes vulnerable.
Is there too much exposure that the global trust-all-women will fail in specific future instances? Will these failures erode long-term credibility? Is the nature of our culture that where opportunity exists, anything may be gamed?
While it is critical to change the trajectory of matters if women are not taken seriously when reporting traumatic abusive encounters, others may use the powerful imperative to advance specific agendas. The later does not obviate the importance of the former — always taking women seriously. The advice from the article is to “trust but verify.”
Creating A Presumption
Listening and reading, there is a building consideration. Currently, the goal by many is creating a presumption that any sexual assault allegation will be pursued with an indictment irrespective of the fact situation.
The implication of this takes so many forms. There is also excellent journalism investigating innovations such as restorative justice which potentially offers to victims an active more healthful option.
With restorative justice there can be an interaction between the victim and perpetrator. It is an effort to address straight-ahead powerful emotional forces.
These include efforts at empowerment and an attack on the “patrimony”. A dilemma may be that restorative justice involves problem-solving and not so much adversarial retribution with its emotional toll on the victim. It is a variation on the traditional criminal justice process that provides options to support the victim.
The Fight Against Patriarchy
“Believe the woman” addresses the reported dismissive bias of the patriarchy. Anger has become visible everywhere, and it has become framed in a battle against patriarchy or the domination and leadership of America by males, especially older men.
Much commentary exists that America lags in empowering its women and this is the source of profound anger. When I read my Facebook feed, the anger is manifest from many who post.
Unmair Haque writing in Medium addresses his perspective on “How America Patriarchy Succeeded at Institutionalizing Women’s Powerlessness In Ways Europeans Overcame.”
Truth Before Justice
While my opinion is Unmair’s commentary is not comprehensive and balanced it nevertheless is instructive of an important current issue. Also, there is general agreement women have failed to achieve their fair share of America’s power and rewards. Likely this explains much of the growing anger and the drives a conversation for a presumption on behalf of women.
I believe one of history’s lessons is presumptions inconsistent with fair process seldom achieves durable truth over longer terms. If we are to find the fact, it must be based upon the most resilient relationship – truth before justice.
As David Brooks advises in his New York Times essay, we must base justice on a foundation of truth. Truth must lead us to question the inequities in our system. Efforts to resolve the disparities is a march towards justice.
Never Substitute Workarounds for Truth
This resolution is a continuing exchange and results are seldom easy or quick. As a shortcut, we should never substitute “workarounds” in the form of presumptions for our great principles including innocence until proven guilty and procedural due process.
I cannot conclude that a presumption on behalf of any group preempting a search for truth, prerequisite to justice is a resilient and enduring element of the American system. Such workarounds are illegitimate. Over time they cannot be sustained.