civic duty

This is one of the first things Dr. Christine Basey Ford said on Thursday:

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

Civic duty. I’m a big believer in civic duty, though it’s pretty much an outmoded concept these days. Civic duty is the notion that citizens owe some fidelity to the government, and in return that government helps and protects its citizens.

The government really asks very little of us. Pay our fair share of taxes. Vote. Obey the law. On rare occasion, serve on a jury to sit in judgment of a legal matter involving our community or a fellow citizen. That’s about it. Some of us accept more civic duty than is required. We serve in the military, we work for the fire department, we help out in natural disasters, we volunteer to feed the homeless and help the poor. We alert the authorities to information they need. Sometimes we oppose the authorities when they overstep their power.

“[I]n early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his nomination would know about this assault.”

Civic duty requires an element of sacrifice. That sacrifice is why so many people try to avoid their civic duty. People try to avoid paying taxes, find ways to shirk jury duty, can’t be bothered to vote. They praise the military, but shun actual service because it can be dangerous, and doesn’t pay well, and disrupts their career plans. They blame the poor for their poverty and ignore the homeless. They turn away from the victims of crime or condemn them for being victims.

“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you could take into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”

Civic duty requires a sort of quiet heroism. It normally doesn’t call attention to itself. It usually doesn’t promote itself. In general, it simply involves the acceptance of the responsibility necessary to be a good citizen, and whatever sacrifice that entails.

But sometimes civic duty requires actual courage, actual sacrifice, actual heroism. Sometimes it demands more than a person wants to pay, more than it’s reasonable to pay. Those are times when we discover how sincere and genuine a person’s dedication to civic duty is.

Dr. Ford did not want to expose herself and her family to what she knew would come if she made her allegation against Judge Kavanaugh public.

“This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt that I couldn’t not do it. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy that we have faced since my name became public….

In August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. Persons painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.”

Here’s the thing about civic duty and civic engagement. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for others. You don’t do it to improve your social status — most civic duty is pretty low status stuff. You don’t do it for money — civic duty doesn’t pay well at all. You don’t do it for attention — most civic duty is ignored except in times of crisis, and if you get any attention at all, it’s almost always negative attention.

“[M]y greatest fears have been realized and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats, and I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying and have rocked me to my core.”

You accept your civic duty because you care about things. You care about your community, your neighborhood, your town, your county, your state, your nation, your entire world. You accept your civic duty because it’s the right thing to do. You engage in civic duty to protect public values, sometimes to make a change, sometimes to prevent a change, but you always do it because it’s your responsibility as a good citizen.

“It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”

Dr. Christine Basey Ford is a good citizen. She’s a hero. She’s told her truth, whether you believe her or not. She’s been willing to accept the sacrifice of her decision. No matter what happens from this point on, she deserves our respect.

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12 thoughts on “civic duty

  1. Civic Duty… evidence be damned right?

    I wonder how you would have felt if a woman came out of nowhere and had said Obama raped her in high school and she had no evidence, no dates, no locations, no details other than Obama did it.
    She of course mentioned 4 other people who were there when Obama raped her, but all four people claimed this event never happened, ever.

    Would you still be championing the “civic duty” of that woman who stepped forward to save us all from Obama? With no evidence of a crime at all?

    Like

    • Yeah, Billy, I would have held Barack Obama to the same standard I held for Bill Clinton and the same standard I held for Roy Moore and the same standard I held for Al Franken and the same standard I hold for Comrade Trump. And on and on and on.

      We live in a culture that has long ignored the sexual harassment and assault of women and forgiven the men accused of it. Ask any woman you know. So whenever a woman says she’s been sexually assaulted, we need to listen to her and ask questions. Of course, sometimes the accusations will be false — but the social evidence is clear. This isn’t something women commonly lie about.

      Here’s what I said about Al Franken — a man I respect and admire: It’s critically important to support these women. It’s critically important to point out this bullshit when we see it, to drive a stake right through its fucking heart, and burn its corpse. Even when it’s done by Al Franken.

      I firmly believe that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I could be wrong in my understanding, but she provided evidence: her testimony. it is my understanding that in Evidence 101 they teach that testimony, such as hers, is evidence.

        perhaps the OP, like many others confuse what is “theory” and “proof”, thinks evidence is some inanimate object that we can all touch and feel. this aside from projecting, that “the other side” must be like “my side”, rather than some consistent norm.

        [ ps ] I found this, I suppose when a narrative is important, searching online is a scary thing.
        « Evidence is anything the state presents that makes it more or less likely that a fact is true. Live testimony is evidence. It is possible to be convicted by live testimony alone. »

        Liked by 3 people

    • You really have no idea Billy. You take your privileges for granted. The privilege to walk down the street unharassed. The privilege to go out on your own at night and not wonder as it gets later if you’ll make home in one piece because you got in that cab, or on that train, or walked because it was only 5 minutes till you were home. Do you message your friends to let them know you made it home safely? I do. So do all my women friends.
      You ask if we would expect Obama to be called into account had the same accusations been made against him. Yes. Just as I would expect any man or woman who abused or attacked another – man, woman or child – to be called into account. Ask yourself how you would feel if that was your wife, sister, daughter sitting in that stand? Would you be saying he shouldn’t be held accountable because your wife, sister, daughter couldn’t prove it happened?
      We are not asking to be believed without question. But we are demanding you take our experiences seriously. Not call us liars because a bunch of privileged white men held their hands up and said it wasn’t me.

      Liked by 3 people

      • We are not asking to be believed without question. But we are demanding you take our experiences seriously.

        And there it is, right there.

        Like

    • I assume by “evidence” that Billy means that he wants something tangible, like a stained dress or a police report or a rape kit. And any one of those would be great in a court of law.

      But this ain’t a court of law. This is a series of committee hearings to determine if Brett Kavanaugh has the ability, integrity, and sobriety to do a job. It’s a glorified job interview and evidence, while nice, is unnecessary. Allegations of impropriety and criminal wrongdoing from credible sources are perfectly acceptible.

      And as a “pro sequitur” I’d like to point out that Neil Gorsuch had no such troubles with allegations of sexual assault or “rabid Democrat obstructionism.”

      Just face it. Kavanaugh was a shit choice and no one with a modicum of common sense believes he’s anything more than a walking get out of jail free card for Trump.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “evidence be damned right”

      Like recorded evidence of a certain somebody saying he grabbed women by the pussy?

      But you voted for him anyway – and wonder why women don’t come forward.

      Like

  2. Revealing additional evidence of a possible crime is what we were asking for…what Christine Blasey Ford was asking for. The whole thrust was the obvious need for additional FBI background investigation before a confirmation for a lifetime position. Kavanaugh himself revealed he’s not temperamentally fit for the position regardless of the supplemental investigation.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Let me say something in defense of Billy Woody. I’m not sure he’s ever entirely agreed with anything I’ve written. Hell, he’s probably never agreed in any way with anything I’ve written. But he’s still here reading.

    That says something. It tells me he’s willing to engage with ideas he objects to, even if it’s just to criticize them. It tells me he’s willing to expose himself to other views. I don’t expect him to ever change his mind because of anything I write, but he’s still here reading.

    That’s something we should encourage. It’s something I find weirdly hopeful. Yeah, I’m a fucking Pollyanna sometimes, but there it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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