Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death reveals two things once more, that Americans know are true: America’s brokenness and (tacitly) the inadequacy of the United States Constitution. The latter, though it reminds us that neither the framers nor the document were perfect, has long since warranted reform. The former (America’s brokenness) is due, more to the unfaithful behavior of some politicians and judges, into whose trust we’ve placed the upholding of that Constitution, than to the Constitution’s inherent weaknesses which these politicians and judges have chosen, knowingly, to exploit, misinterpret and pervert.
Both political parties have contributed, over time, to America’s brokenness; but arguably, none so much as the Republicans during these last five years, through their current president, the current leader of the Senate, and the other 52 Republicans on that Senate who appear to have lost their moral compass, and all their courage to be fair, just, responsible, and their power to be the checks and balances America needed them to be, this disastrous season. One weakness of the Constitution – whether that weakness is due to the “frame” itself or the absence of the honorable players it needs to be effective – relates to the president’s appointment of Supreme Court Justices and the Senate’s responsibility to affirm them. We all know what Mitch McConnell did in 2016 to President Obama and Judge Merrick Garland. We all know that he’s already pledged to do the exact opposite, since, and confirmed it last night while Ginsburg’s body was still warm.
People who know the Bible know that often, the prophets were asked to undertake some absurd actions so as to demonstrate Israel’s brokenness, folly, and need of reformation and redemption. Isaiah was asked to preach to folks who wouldn’t listen; Ezekiel was asked to eat a book; Hosea, to marry a whore, and to give two of his children ridiculous, but accurate names. I have the feeling (and there is already chatter about it in the media) that the absurd is about to unfold in America. As the Old Testament prophets sometimes did the absurd, something absurd is about to happen with “The Nine.” There is nothing to prevent any president from changing (as has happened 6 times before) the size of the Supreme Court of the US. Should Biden win and, finding RBG’s vacancy filled, appoint two for the theft that McConnell shall have done twice, and two more for good measure, that would be absurd, no matter how much fair, if even that; but it would demonstrate America’s utter absurdity, brokenness, and need of reformation. Should Trump appoint any number beyond the current vacancy (we’re talking absurd, so let’s say, 3, 5, or even 7) that would be his right (and McConnell’s further act of theft and sabotage); but it would be very absurd, again demonstrating America’s dire brokenness, and exponentially increasing it.
So, what’s the solution? Vote, Americans – you who sat at home in 2016, vote! You who wasted your vote on a third candidate in 2016 in what was then, a consequential election, vote! You who now sorrow that you wasted your votes on the current colossally abysmal disaster of a uniquely unqualified puppet to hold the serious reins of a serious country, vote! When voters elect a puppet, they receive a puppet show. When they elect a clown, they’ll have a circus.
Americans, we can attempt a change this time. Elect Joe Biden! Remove Mitch McConnel and Lindsey Graham, true enemies of The People. Although it is always risky, no matter what party it may be, to give both Houses and the Senate to one party I want to trust the Democrats with that this time around. However, because absolute power corrupts even angels – let alone political humans – (and as a registered Independent) it is still better to have divided government, but only if we chose wisely: only if we chose honest and honorable men and women – people with consciences, who come to serve us, not their party or pockets, or their re-election. We all have ideologies. But good leadership (and here’s where that comes in more clearly) always submits ideology to the collective whole. Americans love to talk about rights; but it’s time we talked more about obligations, which envisions community instead of one’s own selfish and destructive demands.
Stan Rushworth, an indigenous elder of Cherokee descent, encourages this kind of thinking: there is “the difference between a Western settler mindset of ‘I have rights’ and an indigenous mindset of ‘I have obligations.’ Instead of thinking that I am born with rights, I choose to think that I am born with obligations to serve past, present, and future generations, and the planet herself.” That kind of thinking requires leadership that leads people away from their basest instincts to demand rights, no matter how petty, while everybody else can go to hell or just drop dead. That is literally happening in America today. One example is the selfish, reckless, and frankly, asinine people who are refusing to wear masks during a pandemic because it is “their right” – a position encouraged by a very bad leader – and to hell with the science and scientific proof that masks are working better than a vaccine at this time. It is distressing in the extreme that Evangelicals support this kind of bad leader. It is no comfort that leadership studies do forewarn us that people – especially church people – actually want toxic leaders or that this iteration of Evangelical is a woeful perversion of the “evangel” – good news. I reference further, that “there is a point beyond which toxic leaders become simply evil.”
But you’ll notice that I did say that Americans can attempt a change this time. Truth is, deep down, I, a cross-breed between optimistic and cynic, do wonder if we haven’t become broken beyond repair. I wonder if Americans as a whole (despite the people who read the tea leaves accurately) still lack whatever it takes to be judicious about whom they cause their parties to offer and for whom they eventually vote. We have certainly had cause to marvel, sometimes with loud guffaws of shock, not humor, at the kinds of characters that have emerged to join our legislature, executive, and judiciary. Now we have conspiracy theorists joining the line. Americans must contemplate what good leadership is, want it, evaluate every candidate for it, and reject any who lack it. Often, long before that means political candidates, it may mean our religious leaders and our religion.
All this makes me wonder: America, America! What exactly has been shed on thee – and by whom? Wake up, America! You were asleep in 2016; and your 44-month long nightmare has just become worse.
Michael Friday is an organizational leadership specialist and consultant. He is author of And Lead Us Not Into Dysfunction.
Photograph retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/18/100306972/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg-champion-of-gender-equality-dies-at-87
 Meme on a Facebook wall – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=duncan.badine&set=a.10151182404678269
 Friday, M., And Lead Us Not Into Dysfunction: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, of Church Organizations And Their Leaders, p.85.