He had me at tutoring elementary school children.

Before President Obama’s official announcement that he would nominate Hon. Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court, the news had leaked, and cable news networks were already giving information about him. His is an impressive Curriculum Vitae. So, when the president began to give Garland’s credentials for the court, I had heard much of it before. What I had not heard was that he tutored elementary school children in math and reading. This is when I learned forward and started to pay more attention.

Very often when searching for someone to fill a position, after a certain level of achievement, there are any number of people who are competent to do the actual job. This is where other factors enter into the decision-making process. That this man would take the time to tutor elementary school children is a testimony to his character. It would be a good thing if a news organization spoke to some of the students he tutored. Garland has been doing this for 20 years, so some of these children are adults now.

We have heard about his clerks who have gone on to clerk for other judges. We know that their time with him served as good preparation for their next career move as lawyers. What do the children he tutored have to say? I am impressed with this aspect of his life because it is something that he does not have to do. I know from my own experience that elementary school children can be challenging. It requires patience and skill that many adults, myself included, do not have. It is a challenge he chose that demonstrates a willingness to walk the extra mile to help another human being. It embodies the moral imperative: each one teach one. It is an example of the African-American saying that we all have an obligation to reach back and lift someone else as we climb the ladder of success.

When President Obama introduced Judge Garland, it was clear that the judge was deeply moved. He is a man who is man enough to show emotion in public. In an introductory video found at the White House website, Garland speaks about his faith in the importance of the law. He says that he:

“believes in the rule of law and making sure the law is applied fairly. I think the rule of law is what distinguishes our country from most other countries, from many other countries. People’s willingness to trust that they don’t have to take justice in their own hands, that the law will treat people fairly and impartially, and without regard to politics, religion, or race, or anything else, and if people trust that, we have a decent society.”

This view of the law is consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Elected officials, including President Obama, say their most important duty is to keep the United States safe. However, according to the preamble of the Constitution, the federal government is established to form a more perfect union then to establish justice. The founders understood that justice comes before domestic tranquility and the common defense. No justice; no peace. This is why we all ought to take the courts seriously, and none more seriously than the highest court in the land.

Merrick Garland is a good and decent man who ought to be respected enough by the Unites States Senate for it to do its job, hold hearings, and give him a vote. I say he ought to be confirmed.

No one denies Judge Garland’s decency and competence. Senator Mitch McConnell says his opposition is not about a man but about a principle. This is pure and utter nonsense. McConnell insults our intelligence by quoting a so called “Biden Rule” that says the Senate ought not to consider a SCOTUS nominee in a president’s last year or during election season. There is no such rule, and senate Democrats have never refused to meet with, hold hearings, or vote for a SCOTUS nominee. McConnell and others claim that the American people ought to have a say in this judicial nomination. The American people spoke plainly both in 2008 and in 2012. When they say the Supreme Court was not an issue in those elections, they are wrong. Many people considered who they wanted to have the power to put people, not only on the Supreme Court, but on the lower courts as well. That person was President Obama. This action not only disrespects President Obama, it disrespects the millions of voters who voted for him.

Sadly, Republican senators who once could be considered elder statesmen have trashed their reputations in the name of party loyalty. I agree with Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Orrin Hatch(R-UT), and John McCain(R-AZ) on very little, but they once had my respect. Now they have lost my respect because they are running with a GOP senatorial heard when they know it is a wrong action and a wrong direction. They ought to be leaders and wise men, instead they are carrying water for a GOP that is poised to hand its presidential nomination to Donald Trump.

Lindsey Graham warned this obstruction sets a bad and dangerous precedent. He said this is a gamble that the GOP could lose if Hillary Clinton wins the White House and the Democrats take back control of the Senate. Yet, he will go along. A more principled and courageous stand would have been: “Therefore I will not cooperate with this.”

On March 13, 2016 Orrin Hatch said: [President Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” Hatch thought the president would not choose Garland because he was a consensus candidate. The decent, patriotic, and honorable thing for Orrin Hatch to do now is to declare his support for Garland and to do everything in his power to get him confirmed.

John McCain voted for Garland in 1997 when Garland joined the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. McCain once argued that a president’s nominee to the high court ought to get an up or down vote. Now he has abandoned that principle. These legislative gymnastics are both sad and shameful. Susan Collins (R-ME) is a fair and courageous Republican in the Senate. She is calling for regular order, for meetings, hearings, and a vote. This latest GOP obstruction is not fair, and it is not smart.

A good and decent man is being denied fair play, being denied justice and respect that is due him because of crass partisan politics. The good news is: We the People still have a voice. We will take our power back on Election Day. We can register our displeasure at the polls. In the meantime, I hope we will call Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader (202-224-2541) and Chuck Grassley, chair of the judiciary committee (202-224-3744) and tell them We the People want them to give Judge Garland a hearing and a vote. We can contact our own GOP senator and tell them we want the process to go forward. We ought to call more than once.

Our union is fragile. Civilization itself is fragile. Witness the episode in Chicago after Donald Trump cancelled a rally. Our justice system and the faith that we have in the rule of law is necessary to a peaceful society. Our elected officials ought to know this and honor it.

I call for justice for Merrick Garland, a good and decent man.

 

 

Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”


Bookmark and Share