If you were in Washington, DC, as the nominee to the Supreme Court in 2018 after Mitch McConnell violated the “Advise & Consent” clause of the constitution you were being nominated to uphold at the highest level of jurisprudence, would you tarnish the rule of law, would you play dumb by repeating a pithy lie written for you by an Extreme Right Wing Think Tank, “Feel free to refresh my memory,” would you perjure yourself?
I spent two days watching Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Senate being grilled over matters of the heart. You might think “lawyer speak” is designed to do little more than steal emotion from words and you would be correct. Give yourself a prize! But if you listen hard enough, if you get beneath the twisted language, if you close your eyes to shut out the buffoonery of fine print then you can hear the sound of heartbreak all across the country.
Brett Kavanaugh isn’t fit to shine the wood on Merrick Garland’s gavel.
I don’t know Merrick Garland. But just last week, I did hear him speak at a junior high school in Lincolnwood. The very next day, I bumped into Merrick at a wedding in Chicago. I did everything I could to be respectful. I’m not a senator so I didn’t grill him with questions. I’m not a reporter so I didn’t pester him for an interview. I’m a citizen and so I respected his right to enjoy the wedding by gushing at him a few times and doing my absolute best not to stare while he danced with his wife.
Lincoln Hall Middle School was celebrating its 75th anniversary. Merrick Garland was the guest of honor. He graduated in 1966. He clerked for Judge William Brennan. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. He was nominated to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. There are a catalog of accomplishments but these stood out to me.
Needless to say, I’m a fan.
I don’t think you can imagine what it’s like to end up at the elementary school of your youth, standing in the gymnasium, making a speech a week prior to another man getting the honor you were denied. The injustice and the emotion can’t be easy to conceal. I’m happy to say I watched Merrick Garland get choked up. His mother died 2 years ago and when he spoke about her, it was moving. How often do you get to say that about a nominee for the Supreme Court? You don’t typically describe them as “moving.”
But he was and I would dare anyone who was lucky enough to be in the gymnasium to contradict what I saw.
At the event, in the parking lot, standing in line ahead of me was guy who’d driven to Lincolnwood all the way from Michigan. He wanted to see Merrick speak. He couldn’t get tickets for the main floor, so he had to sit in the roll over room. But this was good enough for him. In the 7th grade, he was Merrick Garland’s campaign manager when Merrick ran for class president.
“Besides Mitch McConnell, I’m the only other person to hand a setback to Merrick,” he began. “I hung posters. I passed out buttons. I arranged for Merrick to speak in different classrooms. He got crushed. But Merrick is a quick learn. So in the 8th grade, when he ran again, he asked someone else to be his campaign manager. He won!”
How can you not love this guy? What a beautiful memory. When you stop to think about the things you carry around, the things you’re proud to have done, isn’t it funny how you can attach yourself to a loss while admiring yourself for the attempt. The short term view and the long term view are never the same. The short term view is often crushing. The long term view is colored by emotion and lifted by the perspective of time.
After the event, they had a tent set up in the parking lot. The crowd was chit-chatting. They were passing around appetizers. This had to be a special occasion. How often does an elementary school have a budget for passed apps? I was getting ready to leave when I felt compelled to approach The School Board President.
“Mr. President,” I said, “I wanted to thank you for putting together such beautiful event. How often do you get to hear someone like Merrick Garland speak from the heart to a community that’s in awe of one of its own children.”
“No,” I hedged. “There’s a long line of people. I don’t want to be pesky.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Merrick is a mensch.”
I smiled. Mensch is Yiddish for gentleman. How could I say no? The answer is I couldn’t say no. I raced up the stairs to the gymnasium. The line of people waiting to talk to Merrick had dwindled. I walked up to Merrick Garland and shook his hand.
“I loved your speech,” I said. “It’s such an honor to stand in front of you. I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry about,” he asked.
“I could have done more,” I said. “I don’t like how you were treated and I could have done more.”
“What could you have done,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “But I’m a citizen. I’m here. I can’t figure out why we keep letting other people tell us what we have to accept. It’s baffling. By the way, I hear you’re going to be at a wedding over the weekend. I’m going to be there too. I hear you’re officiating.”
“Minor officiating,” he clarified.
In the clarification I could see the difference between us, even though we’re both terrific dancers. Merrick is the kind of man who gets nominated and does what he’s told. If he’s handed the gavel, he takes it. If he’s snubbed, he takes it. I’m the kind of man who seeks out the truth, who listens to liars with his eyes closed, who travels to strange gymnasiums to seek out moments of genuine emotion.
I don’t wait for the gavel. I take it and if someone tried denying me the gavel, when the gavel was mine to take, I’d break it in half and shove it up their ass. This is where we are right now as a county, broken in half. And so I say to every single man who’s sick of it, and so I say to every single woman who’s sick of it, who’s tired of the lies, who’s unimpressed by the clever answers disguising the lies, who’s sick of taking it, who’s done taking it, who’s done waiting for permission, who craves the taste of contempt and is bruising for a fight.
Just Do It. Shove It Up Their Ass.