Last week was another minefield in which we found ourselves treading carefully.
We begin with the state of Virginia, which seems to be collapsing like a house of cards with revelations of blackface and allegations of sexual assault against the governor and the lieutenant governor respectively. (The state attorney general and some Republicans have also admitted to having done blackface.) I have great respect for Mark Shields and David Brooks on “PBS NewsHour,” but I think they missed the point in saying that Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface experience is mitigated by his good work. The Buddhist principle of karma holds that what you put out in the universe returns to you. This is different from the vengeful, biblical “What you sow you reap.” It’s merely cause and effect. You do it, you own it, because it will come full circle, regardless of what else you have done.
Northam’s press conference showed he not only has no understanding of this but no real insight into why blackface is so painful. It’s not cultural appropriation or admiration but cultural domination. And yet, as the recent Independent Lens’ documentary “Black Memorabilia” demonstrated, people don’t get it, apparently viewing ugly, stereotypical items and Confederate artifacts as a hopeful measure of how far blacks have come. Huh?
And now Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is facing a second sexual assault allegation, throwing Virginia Dems into disarray, because if they succeed in getting Northam to step down and Fairfax goes under, that would leave Republican Speaker Kirk Cox in line for succession.
As Virginia remains embroiled in controversy and chaos, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices in curtailing Louisiana’s abortion law restrictions — for now. Roberts has always been an intriguing fellow, and his recent decisions, beginning with upholding Obamacare — explored in Joan Biskupic’s “The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of John Roberts,” out March 26 — have led to much speculation about whether he’s turning lib with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. I doubt it but I do think there’s something to the theories as to why he appears more liberal than Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the last two Trump appointees:
Nature abhors a vacuum. With the absence of Kennedy as the swing vote, there’s a void that needed to be filled. Roberts, as chief, is the one to fill it, bridging an increasingly polarized environment.
Also as chief, Roberts is inevitably legacy-minded. His name will forever be associated with the court. It’s in his interest, the court’s — and ours — to be as fair as possible, even if it means tilting in the other direction.
Like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Roberts has been placed in a position by President Donald J. Trump in which he needs to reassert the branch of government he heads as co-equal to the executive branch. Note Roberts’ uncharacteristic rebuke of Trump in response to the president saying there were Obama judges. That demonstrated that Roberts is not going to let the president co-op the court.
While Roberts was pushing back on Trump and the conservatives in the 5-4 ruling against Louisiana’s abortion restrictions, another sometime Trumpian adversary, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was making the rounds of Washington D.C., assuring the press and politicians alike that Scotland was opened for business. The night of the Brexit vote, June 23, 2016, I wrote here that whatever happened, Brexit would be devastating politically to the open border between Northern Ireland, which voted to remain in the European Union but will now have to leave as part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an E.U. member. I also wrote that it was only a matter of time before Scotland, a U.K. member that also voted remain, held a second referendum on independence.
With a March 29 deadline for the U.K. to exit the E.U. and British Prime Minister Theresa May looking to ask Parliament for more time to renegotiate the Brexit deal it has already rejected, Sturgeon is willing to play the long game. But you know another Scottish independence vote is down the line.
Finally, a personal note. Much has been made in the news of late about the recent murder of a Barnes & Noble employee, Valerie Reyes. I knew her casually. She struck me as a lovely young woman and an excellent worker.
We honor the dead by serving the living. Each death should recommit us to life and excellence as none of us knows how much time he has on this earth.
May she rest in peace.