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A Burning Issue Resolved

Well, is she or isn’t she?

The burning political issue of the week, it seems, was whether a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who President Trump had repeatedly derided as ‘Pocahontas’, was part Native American, as she had claimed to be, or not.

Trump once went so far as to bet a million dollars that she couldn’t prove it. She has now done just that, senselessly in my opinion, rising to the bait of a master baiter. (Yes, I know.) The senator in question, Elizabeth Warren, sought to dispel all doubt by releasing this week the result of a genetic test to determine the matter. For what it’s worth, it proved that she is part Cherokee. A very small part, mind, in fact just 1/32nd of her. I’m probably more Cherokee than that.

Asked if he would cough up the million dollars, Trump denied ever having pledged it, despite the constant playing of a newsreel of him doing exactly that. It is of course a minor fib. The man has uttered far worse lies. But then it is also a minor matter. When told about the test results, his response was, “Who cares?” He was right. We shouldn’t care. And I have to assume that most of us don’t. But then who generated the controversy by bringing up Warren’s bloodline in the first place, and then on at least a dozen other occasions captured on video. He did so presumably in an attempt to discredit a woman who may or may not be considering a tilt at the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, although he will probably deny that, too.

What he was thinking? Who can tell what strange notions tumble about inside that head of his like clothes in a dryer without a window?
But more to the point, what was she thinking – this college professor, writer of theses, mentor of the impressionable young, and a candidate with far more impressive qualifications for the job she is said to want than the one who is holding it?

Disappointingly, she decided, or more likely was persuaded, to stoop to her protagonist’s pre-school level of discourse. Why wasn’t she the one saying – and right from the start of this nonsensical exchange – ‘Who cares’? Why wasn’t she the one rising above it all by proclaiming that the nation had more serious subjects to talk about than being 1/32 of a Cherokee, and then proceeding to talk about them?

The answer is that her overreaction to what was a minor and pointless provocation all too sadly reflects the political times, which in turn probably mirror the social times, in which we live. This kind of desiccated controversy is these days all too often the best our politicians can come up with in the way of political discourse. There no longer seems to be room for genuine, intelligent and, yes, polite debate about matters of policy – least of all of those issues that might concern ordinary Americans.

Such a notion now sounds almost quaint, a relic of a dimly-remembered past. In place of debate, what we now get from our politicians, from both sides of the divide, is personal invective. That is nothing new, of course, but it now has a much sharper edge. The intent now is not merely to discredit opponents but destroy them. There is no longer a middle ground on the spectrum, where Left and Right might meet and work out a compromise or two. All we have is extremes. Like ‘media’, the word ‘moderate’ has become a pejorative. Listen long enough to apologists for the present incumbent of the White House and ‘Democrat’ will soon join them. Moderate, or democrat, or liberal, they equate to ‘wimp’, which might be defined as a web-footed, swamp-dwelling creature that sees everything but believes in nothing, clings to the status quo, and so deserves our contempt.

It seems we are being asked to clearly state our preference from a menu with only two dishes on it: neo-Fascism or neo-Socialism. There are no Americans any more – just ‘Us’ Americans and ‘Them’ Americans – and we all know who ‘Them’ are, even if we’re not allowed to say it out loud.

So it is that a nominee for the Supreme Court appearing before a Senate committee is judged not on his judicial credentials, or his objectivity, or his temperament, but on whether he fits the bill in packing the court with members with sufficiently inflexible right-wing credentials. (No doubt, if the political boot had been on the other foot, it would have been impeccable left-wing credentials.) The recent nominee, now firmly ensconced on the bench, may or may not have attempted to assault a fellow fresher when he was at college. I have no idea. But his bellicose responses to reasonable questions and his blatant hostility left me, for one, doubting his temperamental suitability for the bench. Balanced court? In the end, all that mattered was not that the Court acquired a fine legal brain but that the Republican Party secured for the next thirty years a vigorous and long-lasting swing to the right. (Mind you, FDR did, or attempted to do, the same thing during the 1940s with a series of liberal nominees.)

I’m glad Ms Warren can now loftily announce that she has indigenous credentials. Time, perhaps, to start smoking the pipe of peace.

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