A Note to Students, on the Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh

I write these words early on a Saturday morning.  Sometime later today, I expect that the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.  Republican leadership in the Senate corrupted the nation’s institutions to force through a justice who stands credibly accused of sexual assault, and who appears to have perjured himself in his testimony before the Senate.  Democratic Senators never managed to view all the documents on Kavanaugh’s career, including his time in the White House, or to obtain answers about Kavanuagh’s curious financial dealings.  A political operative who worked to bring down the presidency of Bill Clinton over that president’s sexual “misconduct,” Kavanaugh’s accusers never had the opportunity to present their case to the committee.  It likely would not have mattered. They crammed Kavanaugh through, the ends apparently justifying any means.  In our class discussions, many of you thought this process was grotesque. Don’t give up.  Fight on.

A long time ago I served as an expert witness in a federal land claims case.  I worked for a non-profit law firm representing the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. They asserted that the State of New York had purchased from them Grand Island, a large island in the Niagara River, in violation of the Federal Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, and as such, that the transaction was null and void.  I will not go into the details, but one of the many historical questions in the case involved whether the federal government had ever returned land to an Indian tribe that earlier had been acquired by a state.  Attorneys for the state of New York, the defendant in this case, said that the federal government had no right to do so and that no such return of land had ever happened.  I wrote reports highlighting two instances where the national government had done just that. In the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell, the United States returned to the Cherokees lands purchased from them by the upstart and outlaw “State of Franklin.”  Five years later, at the Treaty of New York, the United States returned land to the Creeks purchased from them by the state of Georgia in a number of coercive treaties.  And at Canadaigua, in 1794, the United States returned land to the Senecas that included the islands in the Niagara River.

I wrote my report, spent a day in deposition.  Other experts testified on the Tonawandas’ behalf.  It did not matter.  The federal district court in western New York dismissed the case before it ever went to trial. I was upset.  I told my friend, one of the attorneys in the case, that I felt like I was playing tennis against an opponent who could raise and lower the nets at will, and widen and narrow the lines while the ball was in the air.  It was unfair.  I felt like there was no way we could win.  She said, and I have always appreciated this, that you still have to do the work, and that you still have to fight, because otherwise the injustice is uncontested and rewarded.

Those of you who have protested against Kavanaugh have been described as a mob by the Republican leadership and their allies in the Right-Wing media.  In the callousness with which Dr. Ford’s story has been dismissed, I know that many of you feel as well that your stories do not matter.  In the cynical manipulation of the political system by Leader McConnell and the rest of the Republican leadership, you might feel that there is not much that is democratic about this government at all, that we are led by men old and white who do not care about people like you.  You might think the system is so corrupt that it is beyond redemption, or that because 63 million Americans voted for this travesty that all hope is lost.

But you need to resist.  You need to question each of their assumptions, each of their spurious claims. Engage them fervently in dialogue and discussion. You need to make your voices heard.  They will try to denigrate you and dismiss you.  They will call you “Snowflakes” and “Feminazis” and propagandists of “Political Correctness” and part of a mob.  Keep at it. Your protest is patriotic, your expressions of your dismay important exercises of citizenship. They are working to achieve a revolution, a new America with little government regulation, unfettered corporate power, restrictions on who can vote when and where, and a truncated democracy.

And they will not stop.  I expect that many of you see that now.  They will not stop.


Until you stop them.

Election day is less than a month away.

2 thoughts on “A Note to Students, on the Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh”

  1. I am not a student of yours but I am a life-long learner. Thank you for this article. I agree wholeheartedly with it’s conclusion. I’ve read extensively about Native American life and trials and tribulations since the white man arrived and began to deprive them of their lives and livelihood; my sadness deepens with each story I read. I especially appreciate any work written from the Native American perspective. I am on twitter to learn and will follow you from today forward. Best wishes in all you’re teaching and writing endeavors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *