Patriarchy, Truth, Justice

Supreme Court Building USA Copied from Wikipedia

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.”

“Me Too” 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.

Restorative Justice

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.”

America Lags for Women

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.

Truth Before 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.

Nationalism’s Promise

I have paid particular attention to “nationalism” over the past month.  Various perspectives have presented themselves.  At the beginning of August I traveled in South Africa and at the end of the month the memorial to Senator John McCain dominates public attention.

South Africa’s Nationalistic Victory

While in South Africa I visited the Apartheid Museum and the Mandela “Capture Site”.  During the apartheid era, South Africa perpetually and harshly denied majority rights.  African friends of mine at the University of California, Davis back in my graduate school days predicted a blood reckoning once apartheid was defeated.

Through the fortunate leadership of a great man (men) and an astute appeal to better natures, the peace largely held and South Africa endured as one nation.  Specific efforts such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission attempted to provide accurate information, justice and importantly conditioned mercy.

Ascending to Leading a Nation

As Tony Leon a leader of the opposition chronicles in his book Opposite Mandela Encounters with South Africa’s Icon, the efforts were only partially successful.  Mr. Leon wrote that though there was much controversy about the conclusions he demonstrated an important national perspective.

This was demonstrated by President Mandela continuing to endorse the Truth and Reconciliation findings.  “Mandela’s role here, in stark contrast to his successor Mbeki’s, proved in my view how at crucial moments he could ascend from partisan combatant to leader of the nation.” (p 137)

Liberty of Nations

On August 24th, the Wall Street Journal presented an essay “The Liberty of Nations”.  Nationalism is often used as a pejorative.  It is denigrated as a shallow and narrow construct, subject to being captured by bigoted, ignorant groups.  Nationalism and nativism are used in conjunction.  It is used to denote intolerant movements such as white nationalism.  How can any word survive such bad company?

Nationalism:  Disordered Habit of Mind?

Yoram Hazony’s article in the Wall Street Journal provides background and context regarding nationalism.  He refers to George Orwell who regarded nationalism as a disordered “habit of mind.”  His criticism emphasizes the exclusivity of the nationalistic concept where there is a single identity which treats the particular nation as beyond moral reproach which only advances that nation’s interests.

In contrast to nationalism, Orwell praises “patriotism”.  He views it as a “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.”

National Borders

Mr. Hazony expands upon anti-nationalist authors when he reviews Elie Kedourie and his 1960 book Nationalism.  Kedourie determined that nationalistic agitation precipitated many of the 20th Century mega wars.

His analysis is built upon the relationship of national borders to majority and minority populations.  This critique draws much from the relatively recent history where minority populations in many countries have been attacked by nationalistic majorities.

Nationalism and Power Sharing

But Nelson Mandela provides a good contrast.  The nationalistic identity does not have to be tribal.  The key to an effective national experience is power sharing.  It is best developed when there is a compelling sense of cohesion within the nation.

Cohesion can be accomplished when there is an increasing sense of shared identity.  This may be through joint development programs that emphasize national identity,  or a unified common history which has built trust and rapport and in which truth and reconciliation is the overriding goal.

Retreating from National Trust And Rapport

Most recently in America we appear to have advanced and then retreated from national trust and rapport.  For Americans to advance culturally, socially, and economically our beneficial common history must be featured.  Unified joint action is required to advance our history.

We need to evaluate carefully whether we want to revisit a history of fire-eaters and abolitionists where all parties were pulled into a deadly tribal division.  The result after the Civil War freed 4,000,000 enslaved Americans at the cost of around 620,000 battlefield deaths.  Though immense sacrifice there was great progress in freeing Americans from slavery.  Relatively soon thereafter we retreated into an amnesia with no durable reconciliation achieved over many generations.

All the implications of this calculus has yet to be fully resolved, but undertaking our own American truth and reconciliation initiative may well be beneficial.  It must address all aspects of our national discontent.  It must be grounded in a unifying American cause greater than ourselves.  A special kind of leadership will be required to unify Americans to this purpose.

Senator John McCain’s Farwell Statement

John McCain’s Farewell Statement provides the national rationale to earnestly address our challenges:

But, we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.  If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we get through these challenging times.  We will come through them stronger than before.  We always do.

Common Effort is What We Do

Some call it nationalism other patriotism.  I believe it is both – they are best symbiotic having reinforcing elements.  If we are to build the nation, we much launch common endeavor, requiring service and commitment, but introducing us to each other and advancing the fruits of our common effort.

This effort may not financially enrich ourselves immediately, but we should be able to see our communities and our nation advance, providing increased opportunity and achieving the object of providential hope for the broader American community.

Common ground is where we stand while common effort is what we do.  In this regard Senator McCain summed it up best in his “Farewell Statement”: “Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but are enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.”