Wipe the slate clean
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Writing this has been hard — hurt and anger have blocked my way. The entry point is a common one: loss due to the pandemic. We’ve all read about historical plagues, but the chance of actually experiencing one always seemed remote. My class wasn’t able to able to have our 50-year reunion because of COVID and the federal government’s response, or lack thereof, to the outbreak. My classmates and I couldn’t reunite and reminisce at the place we all love. This “loss” wasn’t on the same magnitude as the suffering of so many others, but it might have been avoidable.
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1970 and obtaining a law degree from another Catholic university, I served 35 years as an assistant public defender in Cook County, Illinois, doing capital litigation until the death penalty was eventually abolished. My role wasn’t major, but I kept plugging along because it was my “calling.” Hardly would I consider myself to be a model Christian, but former University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s beacon of striving for social justice always lit the way. Living a life for others was the lesson learned from Notre Dame and the other Catholic schools I attended.
The last four years have been brutal for believers in the foundational imperative of social justice. To my embarrassment, too many “Domers” have boarded and help power President Donald Trump’s oblivion express. Whether it’s rigid dogma, the gospel of prosperity or just an overwhelming lust for power, Notre Dame appears to be viewed by the current administration as its “go to” source for academic respectability. It shames me.
It started with Don McGahn’s packing the courts with, not the best and brightest, but the marginally experienced and the intellectually malleable. John Ratcliffe (Director of National Intelligence) has decided to turn “national intelligence” into an oxymoron — foreign sourced fodder to embolden the call for our former president, vice president and secretary of state to be arrested for unspecified crimes.
Amy Coney Barrett (ACB) may be a nice, pious person, but she is a pawn in a very dark game. If you went to central casting and ordered up a candidate to play the modern-day anti-Christ, Donald Trump’s resume would certainly appear. Those who think Christianity can be threaded through his eye are delusional and dangerous. As an “originalist,” ACB would have us view the world through the eyes of 18th century slaveholders who ascribed to the disenfranchisement of half the population — only white, male land-owners had opinions worthy of notice. A woman’s ability to make health decisions for herself and the health care of millions will disappear. ACB was chosen by Trump for one reason alone — she’s telegenic. She looks the way Trump would like justice to appear. She cannot have a great deal of professional integrity given that she is willing to go through with the nomination process knowing that Trump has made it clear he expects her to vote to disenfranchise as many Americans as it takes to secure a victory for him. No self-respecting professional would allow herself to be debased that way.
Finally, comes the ultimate irony that University President Fr. John Jenkins became ill after attending a super-spreader event in honor of ACB. Science and concern for the well-being of others was thrown to the wind in an epic display of hubris. All Hail the Supreme Leader. Too much Kool Aid has been consumed.
Trump managed to sicken himself, only to be rescued by another enabling Domer — Dr. Sean Conley. Conley has been spouting medical gibberish meant to confuse and misinform the public. The goal: keep Trump afloat long enough for ACB to install him regardless of the vote. The desire to dominate drives these individuals. It’s a long sad fall from Fr. Hesburgh’s clarion call for social justice — where need, not dogma, dictated action.
I don’t know if Notre Dame has lost it’s way but it appears that Fr. Jenkins has. He should step aside. His conduct has betrayed the central calling of any university — intellectual honesty. Fr. Jenkins’ rejection of science in favor of embracing Donald Trump must have the good fathers Julius Nieuwland and Hesburgh rolling in their graves. Enough. Wipe the slate clean and start to rebuild our great University’s reputation far from the taint of all things Trump.
Kevin F. Smith
class of 1970
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.