Millions of lives have been cruelly uprooted. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks: There but for the grace of God go I. The physical devastation—the bombed-out buildings, the crushed cars, the remnants of children’s swings—we can see. But there’s so much damage that’s invisible: the emotional devastation of losing home, belongings, community, family; the evaporation of an unquestioning sense of safety; the innate belief that life somehow, eventually, makes sense. Now, innocence is lost and lives, changed. Many will be haunted forever.
On several occasions last week, for those of us luckier, more privileged, and thousands of miles removed, there was relief of a sort from the devastation in Ukraine as television turned our attention to the hearings on the historic nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, enroute to becoming the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Going from one venue to another felt like whiplash. We went from scenes of crumbling cities, structures in flames, and crowds of refugees to the relative calm of an expensively appointed Senate hearing room where we witnessed the American political system in its typical uneven fettle.
You know what I mean. There were those senators who were interested in Judge Jackson’s previous legal experience—her rulings in cases she had heard, her work as a public defender, her views on “originalism.” There was an emotional paean from Sen. Corey Booker (D-New Jersey). But the whole process was degraded by others who littered the landscape with such ludicrous questions that they couldn’t be taken seriously. For instance …
Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), “What faith are you?” and “On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?”
Ted Cruz (R-Texas), “Do you agree … that babies are racist?”
Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?” (Judge Jackson’s reply: “…No. I can’t.”)
Then, Ted Cruz once more, as he prodded Judge Jackson to define the word, “I think you’re the only Supreme Court nominee in history who has been unable to answer the question.”
My question is this: How many have been asked? … And how many prospective male appointees have been asked to define the word “man”?
Juxtaposed with the unfolding calamity in Ukraine, the pettiness of such questions was particularly stark. This isn’t the first hearing to go off the rails. There have been worse. But we need to do better.