[lead]null[/lead]BY: ALEXANDRA MADARAS, EDITOR AND CONTRIBUTOR
If you’ve recently been haunted by the voice of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh proclaiming his love for beer, you’re not alone.
Over the past weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh have rung in the ears of Americans as they come to terms with yet another set of sexual assault allegations against a prominent political figure. Dr. Ford, a psychology professor living in California, came forward before the Committee to testify that Kavanaugh had groped her and attempted to remove her clothes when they were both in high school. She said she felt it was her civic duty to report on his actions and recounted detail after detail to a special prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans. Her testimony was widely regarded as extremely powerful and left an indelible impression on viewers and Committee members alike. In Kavanaugh’s portion of the hearing, he was questioned pointedly by Democrats and his composure remained shaken, emotional, and even vindictive throughout, allowing some to call his temperament unfit for a Supreme Court Justice. Some Senators have called these hearings “ a sham,” and others, “historic.” They are not wrong.
A Long Time Coming
It’s no secret that America has been in turmoil recently. The Trump administration has turned all expectation of a justice-driven, stable government on its head. With the #MeToo Movement revving back up beginning in 2016 and burgeoning social change reflected in powerful demonstrations, America is changing at a rate that was hardly seen with the last generation. Especially in regards to the treatment of women, American society is beginning to shift from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” narrative to an environment where the poor treatment of women is awarded special scrutiny.
This is making men nervous.
While many men view an increased awareness of sexual boundaries and appropriate behavior as a step in the right direction, others feel threatened and even offended by changes being written into our unspoken rule of law.
This shift in accepted morals directly coincides with an era of the most divided and caustic politics America has ever seen.
Ultimately, the almost theatrical event that has erupted from the Kavanaugh hearings is a direct reflection of this tense turning point: the clash between new ideas of morality and age-old political constructs.
As I watched hours upon hours of the Senate Committee hearings, I came to realize that in that room, there was a monumental struggle going on; a long-established institution, controlled by conservatives by a slight margin, was being shoved into the jet-stream of today’s highly emotionalized politics. I could see that both sides of the aisle disagreed on how to incorporate the sensitive emotions of the case into the proceedings
The Two Sides of the Aisle
Underneath the Democratic Senators’ lengthy speeches, I could hear unspoken questions bubbling up. Senator Dianne Feinstein began by empathizing with Dr. Ford and commending her on her strength of heart. Their questions seemed to get to the emotional center of the issue.
How can we confront this pain in such a setting? Can we afford Dr. Ford credibility based on our own empathy? How can we ensure that trauma is appropriately dealt with through political justice?
In the speeches of many Republican Senators, I struggled to hear the same consideration for Dr. Ford’s humanity, beyond basic respect. Although commending her for bravery and lashing out at Democrats neglecting to inform her she could’ve done the interview at home, Republicans made it very clear that the only interest they had in Dr. Ford’s trauma was twisting it into a narrative that put Democrats in the hot seat.
Though each Republican Senator made sure to proclaim their respect for Ford’s courage in coming forward, they refused to acknowledge her absolute certainty in the identity of her assailant, defending Kavanaugh at every turn. Rather than becoming emotional due to her account of her traumatic event, they became aggravated and essentially yelled praise at Kavanaugh, while blatantly accusing Democrats of conspiracy. Senator Lindsey Graham so cavalierly remarked that “Miss Ford has got a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.”
The emotion that Republicans chose to be sensitive to was the anger and resentment that seethed from a privileged man being held back from a seat of power he believes he is entitled to, not the pain and the hurt from the woman whose life he shattered.
In this Republican rhetoric, I heard an overblown regard for Kavanaugh’s reputation and career, which supposedly were under purposeful and vicious attack by Democrats. The insensitive juxtaposition of Kavanaugh’s loss of reputation to Dr. Ford’s loss of safety and emotional health was appalling; it seemed that the only heart Republicans cared about in politics was the heart of their Good Old Boy.
Are Their Losses Really Comparable?
I do not blame the Republican Senators for being sympathetic to Kavanaugh’s losses. I definitely agree that neither witness should have been attacked and abused via the Internet and social media. Their families should have also been left out of the picture.
What I do not understand is how any human being could begin to compare the searing trauma of sexual assault to the denigration in reputation resulting from the them (likely) perpetrating that assault.
Simply put, a large majority of those people accused of assault have committed it. The rate of false accusation lies somewhere between 2 and 10%. On a national stage, I would argue that the percentage is even lower.
The pain and the resentment of victims that causes them to think lower of those accused of sexual assault should be respected, or at the very least, understood.
The act of attacking a woman, or any person, for being the victim of sexual assault, in turn, should be vehemently unacceptable, and at the very least, incomparable to the “character assassination” of an alleged assailant.
These hearings not only weighed the testimonies of two witnesses, or the stories of two human beings; they also weighed the value of humanity in our politics.
Whose pain is more legitimate?
What do we care about? The interests of a man, or the life of a woman?
A Change Is a Comin’
While powerful men and women grappled with the semantics of party politics and the legal system, they also felt a deeper force stirring beneath their feet. With Ford’s raw testimony came a shock of humanity to the heart of our government.
Politicians were forced to come face to face with real pain, real injustice, and real damage and to weigh it with the consideration of power and political game-play.
In the bid to fit heart into politics, Senators, especially Republicans, failed in the Kavanaugh hearings.
The dilemma will continue to gnaw at our institutions until we address it. We must devise a way to more strongly involve real human emotions and experiences into our political process, lest we lose our way to cold procedure and lose sight of what the goal of politics was to begin with: to protect and preserve the rights of the people.
To feel is a right. To be human is a right. We must remember that.