These hearings are feeling urgently personal for so many of us, regardless of our personal experience with sexual assault. We’ve all been in situations where someone in a group had slightly outsized influence. We hear a story being told that contradicts our direct experience. Social power dynamics have a tendency to twist the truth.
Some people have a gift for putting forth a version of events that plays to their advantage; others fail to garner support in the face of bullying and lies. Furthermore, bullies who cannot tolerate looking at their own ugly behaviors can cultivate the ability to project that ugliness onto their victims. Strident reactive posturing replaces reality. Deluxe gaslighting, I call it. It’s all subjective, man.
Strange as it may seem, part of me feels compassion for Judge Kavanaugh. His most exalted moment of professional triumph has collided with (what one hopes are) the worst actions from his past. Is it far-fetched to wonder if he has engaged in that most human of endeavors: trying to forget his lowest moments? How would anyone fare if comparably exposed? As a rule, people suck at regarding their deepest flaws. National exposure does not create a hospitable environment for detached self-inquiry.
This is what I think: Blasey Ford’s testimony was credible and Kavanaugh’s was not. This does not mean the assault has been proven without a shadow of doubt.
Senators from both parties chose a version of events that supported the narrative of their side of the aisle. For Democrats, this meant outing Kavanaugh as a perpetrator. Republicans banded together in the name of salvaging the judge’s reputation.
The ranting nominee asserted that he was the victim of unfair partisan attacks. The alleged survivor of sexual assault responded to questions with meticulous precision in an almost girlish tone.
Blasey Ford spoke like a professional anchored firmly in her wheelhouse. She described scientific studies on how trauma affects memory to account for the fragmentary recall. Senators characterized her testimony was “pleasing.” I’m guess this meant grounded, logical, openly vulnerable and respectful of the interview process.
After hearing contrasting accounts from Ford and Kavanaugh, the body politic was treated to Republican pols expressing sympathy for Blasey Ford while dismissing her capacity to parse reality.
She’s just so darn pleasing. I don’t want to attack her outright. That would be unkind. So instead I’ll imply that she mistakenly identified Brett Kavanaugh despite her best intentions. She must have been so rattled by some other mysterious man that she’s incapable of recalling the facts. Also, the poor innocent doesn’t realize that she’s being used by the Democrats. She’s so well-spoken and polite. Poor gal is just too addled to distinguish between fact and fiction, between exercising civic responsibility and being used as a pawn by those nasty Democrats.
As I continue to struggle to come to terms with what these events have brought up for me personally and politically, and as an exercise in reflection, I wrote the following statement in the voice of Judge Kavanaugh.
Nancy’s fantasy version of Kavanaugh’s personal statement:
I was brought up in the toxic bro culture of a prestigious Catholic high school in the Eighties. My friends and I often bonded by binge drinking. It was also clear from the way that we discussed our female peers that we lacked a common sense understanding of how to treat women with respect . Widely popular movies from that time minimized, even endorsed, these behaviors. It was not unusual for sexual assault to be portrayed as humorous.
Evidence that includes comments in my high school yearbook, the nickname of my college fraternity, accounts of my behavior from people in my dorm points to my having been a blackout drunk.
Since that time cultural mores have shifted. Binge drinking is seen as dangerous. “Locker room talk” is seen as code for rationalizing disrespectful behavior toward women. Parents teach their children to refrain from behaviors that could result in endangering women, and that if they witness an assault it is their responsibility to intervene. Educational environments express zero tolerance for the “boys will be boys/ it’s a man’s world” ethos of the 80s.
I can say in all honesty that I have never regarded myself as someone who consciously disrespected women. Also, I honestly do not recall the events described by Dr. Ford. As a man of the law, a judge and a human being I must now ask myself if I have made every effort to determine the truth of these startling allegations.
While I am not a psychologist by profession, I am aware that memories can alter to protect us from being flooded by shame. It is possible that during my days of heavy drinking I engaged in reprehensible behavior that I am no longer able to recall. Furthermore, binge drinking may be interfering with my ability to recall. It is my responsibility to face up to the awful possibility that I perpetrated this offense. This is why I am urging all of my friends from that time, including Mark Judge, to come forth with any knowledge of the alleged event.
It has been said that within crisis lies opportunity. Under these highly fraught circumstances I have the unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of events that may have taken place 36 years ago. I can not allow rationalization, obfuscation and partisan fatigue muddy the investigational waters. In the midst of profound strain of such an endeavor, it is incumbent upon me to be a stand for character over privilege.
I stand at a crossroads. Do I act from a sense of entitlement, obstruct and discourage this inquiry? Or do I support a thorough investigation without heed for the outcome that could dismantle my personal and professional worlds?