“Extreme Pressure to Succeed or Outdo everyone else”

Ginia Bellafante in today’s New York Times reports: “A few months ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produced a report on adolescent wellness that listed the “extreme pressure to succeed or outdo everyone else” prevalent in places where the fortunate congregate – the kind of pressure it said that can lead to overwhelming stress and alcohol addiction – as one of the six greatest threats to healthy adolescent development alongside poverty, homophobia and racism.”

My father’s experience bears this out, as I mention in my message below to the two senators from Texas.  The point of my message is to state that Brett Kavanaugh is temperamentally unfit to serve in a lifetime appointment as  Supreme Court Judge.

Email to: Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz

From constituent Mary (Molly) H. Sharpe

Re:  Brett Kavanaugh

The lifetime appointment of a supreme court justice by its nature must require focus on the person being considered.  Brett Kavanaugh proved himself temperamentally unfit with his attacking, partisan testimony at the hearing held September 27th.  No matter that he was under great pressure; the role he is striving for requires personal greatness. For those of us who do not believe his testimony, his lack of proper temperament is one part of the big problem; his willingness to lie under oath in the name of ambition to judge others is another; and the act itself, as was reported to have occurred, is yet another part.

Then there is the sorrow, if it should come to that, of all the men and some women who will potentially vote to affirm his nomination to show that they are still right in their stand.  This is the human condition, for we are all flawed and many, if not most, can get swept into “group think” and complicity.  Still as people, we can be better than this.  Of all the years I have lived, this is the most vivid tipping point I’ve experienced.  May we move out from the shadow and do the right thing by turning back Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

As an important piece of personal testimony, my story includes a father Charles Francis Hawkins who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law where he served on the Law Review.  He was an alcoholic already at the time of my birth which occurred while he was in law school. He managed to acquire top grades and establish a family even as he was drinking heavily — a life course that resulted in death by pancreatic cancer at age 57. Thankfully, he had approaching a decade of sobriety at the end of his life.  I don’t know how much Brett Kavanaugh drinks, but I do know that people who drink heavily and who have occasional blackouts (which they are not necessarily going to remember) can make top grades and undertake impressive extra-curricular activities.

I am a political moderate who in the past has supported both Republican and Democratic candidates for office, balancing issues of platform, personal effectiveness, and track record for integrity. Sometimes in the past, I have been casual about my responsibilities as a citizen, but that has all changed in recent years; it is one of the most serious aspects of my life, and not because I’m mad, but because I’m worried.

Many of us move onward today, holding a candle for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s bravery:  may her incredible bravery and composure inspire us to raise our own levels of kindness, purpose and hope.

I am the author of a political engagement tool, The Postcard Storm, Ten Outcomes We Should All Want. I have not written this with the expectation of turning a profit (several handfuls of the book sold to date). I self-published it to give away to those who might find it useful, including faith organizations. Kindly a woman who is affiliated with Friends for Civil Action, a group I lead, offered me this review of the work: “Wisdom and politics seldom go hand in hand but in this engaging book Molly Sharpe succeeds. Amiably convincing readers that democracy can’t work unless we inform ourselves and engage in civic action, with her account of the women engaged in a post card storm in Texas, Sharpe provides an interesting example. Just as important, though opposed to the Trump administration, Sharpe is even-minded, also opposes the current tribalism that is causing so much damage to our country. I found this very helpful because, as heated as the conflict is now, in the back of our minds both sides know—hopefully sooner rather than later—that Democrats and what is left of the Republican party, have to work together if our country is to survive.”

Because I believe multiple perspectives are critical to problem solving and because I believe civility helps us hear each other, I’m taking time in my life to communicate with public servants in elected office and encouraging others to do the same. The group I communicate with, about three hundred people, operates like a raindrop, connecting with other raindrops.

In our government, as we saw in concluding moments of the hearing, religion and faith are used as shields and weapons, perhaps even more than as sources of kindness and hope.  I conclude my letter with this point, because questions of religion and spirituality are at the heart of how I try to live. I happened into being an Episcopalian. My parents were, and my husband is.  It has been through this tradition that I have done my exploration of what we can’t see and what we can’t know.  I believe there are many good paths to a kind, purposeful, and hopeful life, but, as my particular religious training teaches through the experience of the Passion Play each Palm Sunday when the congregation is called upon to say “crucify him” (Jesus, that is), we people have a history of falling into terrifying crowd behavior.  You who live in the political realm where power, ambition, and scapegoating are even more prevalent than most us experience have an extra challenge keeping perspective.  I believe, we the people, are called to do the job of helping you in keeping perspective.  A good public servant is a treasure.  We need such people.  We the people need to make that possibility more within reach.

I believe Christine Blasey Ford.  Momentarily, I was thrown off as I heard the vehemence of Brett Kavanaugh’s opening remarks.  Then I remembered to observe behavior and motive and circumstances.  I believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s pain today originates with problems of his own making, mirrored by the problems we all bring to the table.

Using the tool of my religious training, in closing, I’m hoping that all of us, in our various roles, hear the call in the words of Micah 6:8, to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly.

Sincerely

 

Mary (Molly) H. Sharpe

 

As we move onward today, many of us will be holding a candle for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s bravery: may her incredible bravery and composure inspire us to raise our own levels of kindness, purpose and hope.

The lifetime appointment of a supreme court justice by its nature must focus on the person being considered.  Brett Kavanaugh proved himself temperamentally unfit with his attacking, partisan testimony at yesterday’s hearing.  No matter that he was under great pressure; the role he is striving for requires personal greatness. For those of us who do not believe his testimony, his lack of proper temperament is a small part of the problem; his willingness to lie under oath in the name of ambition to judge others  is a horror.  Worse than that are all the men and some women who will potentially vote to affirm his nomination.  As people, we can be better than this.  Of all the years I have lived, never has there been such a shadow on our land that I have witnessed.  May we move out from the shadow and do the right thing by turning back Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Hospitality

Many religions and many sets of ethical behavior hold up the value of being welcoming to the stranger.  For those who pursue kindness in life, turning back immigrants without regard for their human dignity and needs is at odds with this pursuit. To ignore the tensions immigration places on a government overlooks realities, but as people we are called to deal with those tensions in a humane manner.  To boil down immigration policy to a this or that choice between people who are qualified for high-skill jobs versus service jobs or to people who are from one area of the world versus another or to a restriction built around keeping out extended family overlooks who we are as people.  We need help from people up and down the skill ladder.  We all do better when we are in community with people we love and who love us.  Yet, we need diversity, too, not just known people of our particular “tribe,” so that we are learning to open our minds and hearts to new expressions of experience. Public safety is one matter: it involves vetting and security measures, so that dangerous criminals aren’t invited in, putting their new neighbors at risk.  Immigration standards and invitations to live here or stay here for those who already are living here successfully are another matter.  I continue to hope for a United States that welcomes people from around the world. We will be a better place for it.

Respect people by backing up words with policy

George W. Bush said in his eulogy of John McCain, “He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings.  He loved freedom, with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators.  Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.”  These are fine words, and now, what we need are fine policies.    In his final statement to the nation delivered posthumously through family spokesman Rick Davis, John McCain had written, “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”  David Leonardt concluded in his Op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, “the congressional Republicans inside the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday would surely say they came to honor John McCain. But they were there for show. Faced with a choice, they have rejected McCain’s America for Trump’s.”  Whether one prefers on political party’s strategies over another, there are common outcomes we should all want, outcomes that aren’t achieved by simple either/or approaches.  Taking the border wall as an example, early on in its debut as a campaign platform piece for Donald Trump, experts with knowledge of security and logistics pointed to concerns about the efficiency of a solid wall strategy, even before getting to the bad symbolic messaging that comes from trying to wall ourselves off from others.  Yes, people in both parties, regardless of their stances on immigration, want safety that comes from barring as we can cartel action from spreading across the border and from barring other proven violence that puts people at risk.   Yet misspending our economic resources on an extended wall when we could be improving our overall vetting and processing system as well as investing in up-to-date surveillance technology creates not only waste, but also lost opportunity to improve all people’s safety, while respecting all people’s human dignity.