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A time to mourn

A terrible quake caps an emotional week 

A time to mourn

Cleanup after the earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

On Oct. 7, as the official death toll from Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami rose toward 2,000, Christians in the devastated city of Palu flocked to Sunday sermons. Many of the 5,000 still missing may never be found because the quake caused loose soil in several villages to liquefy, sucking houses into deep mud and burying occupants.

About 1 in 10 residents of Palu profess faith in Christ. One worshipper, 49-year-old teacher Min Kapala, came to the Manunggal church in Palu “because my own church is no more. It’s leveled.” Pastor Lucky Malonda told his congregation that even the disaster was “not outside the power of almighty God.” Local officials sought the consent of religious groups and families of victims to turn neighborhoods wiped out by liquefaction into mass graves. The disaster has displaced more than 70,000 persons.

On Oct. 6, the day before those services, the U.S. Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh 50-48 and Texas footbrawlers beat Oklahoma 48-45. Both results came after multiple smash-mouth collisions, with losers in the traditional rivalries pledging comebacks next year. U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., vowed to go after Kavanaugh in three months if Democrats gain a majority in the election coming up on Nov. 6. Nadler, who became known 20 years ago as Bill Clinton’s bulldog defender against sexual malpractice charges, would chair the House Judiciary Committee.

On Oct. 5, a jury found white police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty in the murder of 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald—the first time in 50 years a trial of an on-duty Chicago cop had that result. That same day in London, Sotheby’s sold for $1.4 million Girl with Balloon, a spray paint on canvas by a street artist who goes by the name “Banksy.” Seconds after the sale was complete, a remote control order activated a mechanism within the frame that shredded the canvas. “Banksy” quickly declared on Instagram that “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge”: He attributed that statement to Pablo Picasso, but it first came from 19th-century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.

On Oct. 4, more than 2,400 U.S. law professors destroyed any reputation many law schools have for fair play. Their joint letter to the Senate claimed Kavanaugh has “a lack of judicial temperament” because he was “inflammatory” and “discourteous to senators” at his second Senate hearing a week earlier. That came despite the American Bar Association early in September giving Kavanaugh the highest rating possible for professional competence, integrity, and judicial temperament.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A protest of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Sometimes emotion—mourning in Palu, a sigh of relief in Chicago’s black community, anger by Kavanaugh at being called a rapist—is warranted, as even Mr. Spock the Vulcan learned on Star Trek. Missing in the Kavanaugh reportage, except on WORLD’s website, was some historical perspective. Oct. 13 is the 30th anniversary of the most controversial question ever asked at a presidential debate: In 1988 CNN’s Bernard Shaw asked Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis a hypothetical concerning his wife: “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”

Dukakis replied, “No … I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” Showing no emotion, he spent two minutes on policy analysis: “There are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. … Double the number of drug enforcement agents. … Call a hemispheric summit … drug education prevention here at home. …”

Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich was in despair as her candidate droned on. Later she said, “It was a question about Dukakis’ values and emotions. … When he answered by talking policy, I knew we had lost the election.” Had Kavanaugh not shown any anger, Democrats would have cited that as proof of his guilt, since an innocent man would have been outraged.

The left was certainly outraged by Kavanaugh’s gauntlet-running survival. As the Senate deliberated, several thousand protesters offered “Singing, Chanting, and Rage on Capitol Hill,” according to a New York Times headline. Some yelled “Whose court? Our court!” as they marched to the Supreme Court building. Some pounded and scratched at the doors. When U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, waved off a female protester as he walked toward a Senate elevator, she shouted, “Don’t you wave your hand at me. I wave my hand at you.”

At the campus where I taught for 20 years, the University of Texas at Austin, a half-dozen conservative students with “Confirm Kavanaugh” and “Witch Hunt!” signs for two hours faced a crowd that at lunchtime swelled to more than 100, many of whom chanted, “We believe survivors.” Some tore up the conservatives’ signs, indulging their urge to destroy, and contributed obscenities to the discourse.

As some Indonesian mourners flocked to church, two runners in the Cardiff (Wales) Half Marathon suffered fatal heart attacks at the finish line. As Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court, some on the left were saying their faith in the Supreme Court—a stronghold that gave America nationalized abortion and same-sex marriage—was dead, as was their faith in the presidency. If they now join conservatives in limiting Washington’s power, America will survive the political marathon we are now running.

—with reporting from Indonesia by the Associated Press

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.