Two wrongs don't make a right.
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
I had not intended to write about Kavanaugh again for today, but I was in a position where I had to listen to Fox News for a large portion of the day yesterday and got a little worked up. I still don't really want to write about Kavanaugh, per se. I will attempt to write about a larger ill that I see plaguing society, of which, the controversy and theatrics surrounding Kavanaugh serve as a very recent and prime example.
The increase in whataboutism.
Whataboutism refers to a logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument. Usually this takes the form of pointing to another parties bad actions that the opponent did not get upset about. We've seen several examples of this just in the past few months and even discussed them here. Asking someone supporting Rosanne Barr's twitter-based firing about their stance on Samantha Bee or the View or Bill Maher. Or asking someone who supports James Gunn about their stance on Rosanne Barr. It's named for the typical first words of the reply "what about..."
And what we're seeing now, is that it's being used to justify one parties wrongdoing by pointing to wrong doing in the past by the other party. Two wrongs and all.
Let's refer to the Kavanaugh hearing. The allegations are fraudulent because its part of a dirty political by the Democrats in delaying to the last minute. But that's okay, because the dirty politics of the Democrats are excusable because of the dirty political maneuvering by the Republicans in arranging for a dump of documents at the initial hearing process, limiting the possibility for questions. Or because of the dirty political maneuvering by Republicans in the refusal to hear and confirm Merrick Garland. And on, and on, and on.
The thing is, those are four separate instances of alleged wrongdoing that all need to be investigated and for someone to be held accountable for. No one instance in that chain excuses or diminishes the other.
The refusal to hear and confirm Merrick Garland is a political move the Republicans will have to answer for at some point in the future. The resolution will be political.
The document dump and one-sided use of Committee Confidential is something that should be investigated within the Senate and the Senate judiciary committee. And it should lead to stricter rules on how the Committee Confidential designation in particular can be applied.
The timing of the release of the Ford allegations by the leak should be investigated. It should be determined who leaked the letter and there should be consequences.
And the allegations of Doctor Ford should be fully investigated, regardless of the apparent political delay by the Democrats on the committee. The Democrats' actions do not make Dr. Ford's allegations any more or less credible. The timing of her allegations and the timing of her various statements since 2012 preclude entangling the two. Further, since she is now a willing participant and someone who is seeking for further investigation into the claims, that request should be honored, to the point that her allegations are determined to be correct, to the point they are determined to be merit-less, or to the point where they are determined inconclusive. In other words, investigated fully, as we would hope and expect.
Further, Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence of the allegations exists separate and distinct from the political steps of the Democrats or Republicans. No amount of political grandstanding on either side can change that.*
It's possible to recognize that these are all wrongs that must be addressed. To believe, first that both the Republicans and Democrats have both played dirty politics and that they should be accordingly held accountable. To believe that the Democrats inappropriately delayed in revealing Dr. Ford's allegations, but to also believe that with the allegations out there, they must be investigated fully. To believe that the bad actions of another do not allow us to refuse to do what is right in another area.
My children are four years old and nearing two years old. And while it's above the almost two year old's head, we are working on the four year old with respect to "two wrongs don't make a right." To not hit her brother back when he hits her. We try to explain that he doesn't understand, but she knows better. And we're getting there. Slowly.
I think we need to re-learn that as a society. Maybe it's by barring any phrase that starts with "but what about..." That way leads to false equivalencies. To red herrings. To non sequiturs and other tangents. To excuses.
It cements us further in tribalism. It allows us to continue to paint a whole section of society with a broad brush of "other." Democrats are evil because they do this, but then ignore x, y, and z. Republicans are monsters because they will bring up 1, but what about 2, 3, and 4. Substitute any opposing groups you wish.
I'm most interested in this being re-learned and honed among those of us who claim to follow Christ. For we have a much higher standard and calling to be holding ourselves to.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
We, especially, have to recognize that the bad actions of others don't matter in the long run. We're not just to repay them with neutrality. We're to repay them with blessing. We're to do what is right, always, and regardless of the actions of those around us. To bless those who curse us, who insult us. To love our "enemies" and to perhaps recognize that there are not as many "enemies" around us as we might visualize. Just other broken people.
To wrongs don't make a right. But two rights can get us turned back around.
Maybe that's what we need.
*There is a separate and much harder question regarding how much it matters, especially given the lapse of time since the allegations and Kavanaugh's history and reputation since that time. One that cannot be adequately explored here. The veracity of the allegations is a threshold question to this deeper philosophical issue.