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Why the Kavanaugh confirmation was a national distraction
by George Cassidy Payne
2018-10-14 08:28:34
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kauv01_400A female friend of mine said something about the Kavanaugh/Ford issue I can't get out of my head. She said it's just a distraction. At first I didn't understand where she was coming from. How can she say that? This is about sexual assault and the courage it takes for survivors to tell their stories. This is about the sanctity of the Supreme Court and the integrity of the entire American governmental framework. This is about Truth.

But the second time we had this conversation it made perfect sense. We give too much attention to issues that pale in comparison to the real problems that we actually face in our lives. These problems exist in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; and they have far reaching effects that extend well beyond the topic du jour.

Look around and these challenges are not hard to find. Here in Rochester the city schools have a graduation rate of nearly 50%. Each night hundreds of people sleep outside, or in parked cars, basements, garages, and dumpsters. Families, neighborhoods, and communities are being ripped apart by extreme poverty, violent crime, truancy, racial discrimination, brutality of all sorts, and drug addiction. This is to say nothing of the national and global moral crises such as climate change, immigration, health care, and gun violence.

So many priorities. So many important problems to solve. So much hard work to be done. Yet the country was glued to screens, transfixed by the soap opera before them.

My friend is right. Our nation was finding a way to avoid the real work of dealing with real problems. Many of us were looking for simple answers, superficial villains and heroes, and an easy victory.

But at the end of the day, people's lives will not be changed all that much by whether Kavanaugh is put on the bench. What ultimately matters is that we take responsibility for those who come before us each and everyday. Is that child hungry? If so, feed her. Is that man homeless? If so, help find him shelter. Is that house falling apart? If so, help repair it. Is that neighborhood suffering from heroin addiction? If so, help be part of the recovery effort. Is that person being sexually harassed? If so, step in. Stand up. Do what is right. That's our calling. That's what we have control over.

My friend is not naive. She is painfully aware of what's at stake when a man of Kavanaugh's jurisprudence, demeanor and checkered past is put on the highest bench in the land. But she is not willing to give him-or this matter in general- more attention than it deserves. In the words of Mother Theresa: " Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."


George Cassidy Payne is a SUNY adjunct professor of philosophy. He live and works in Rochester, NY.

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