When your air conditioning dies during late September in the south – a time when the air should have a crisp bite like Gala apples, and the leaves should be starting to turn amber, but there’s global warming – you have time on your hands and an excuse to do nothing but sit in front of a fan and catch up on all the TV you’ve been missing. For me, that amounted to Friday, September 28th’s nine hour spectacle, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s recent allegations of sexual assault, televised live from the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
I finally finished watching both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh as they each gave testimony. For yet another dark and troubling moment in American history – one of too many lately – this time, our beacon of light and hope was a sort of ‘everywoman,’ the strong, brave woman to whom females everywhere could relate. In response to her sexual assault, she did everything right – about as perfect as damn near possible, given the times and circumstances. She presented as unassuming, polite, friendly and accommodating, the proverbial girl-next-door type. She represented all the things we’re supposed to be as women, yet she was still excoriated and criticized on the world’s stage.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did not want to be there. It’s bad enough to be a victim of sexual assault; it’s an entirely different level of hell to relive that nightmare, let alone to be re-victimized before the scrutiny of older white men and a national audience. Dr. Ford didn’t want to be there, but she came anyway, because she felt it was her civic duty.
She had nothing to gain and everything to lose, but she came anyway, and she was a good sport. In fact, she was a hero. Because Friday, while stating “I’m nobody’s pawn” and letting the world bear witness to her testimony, she alone set a new precedent for decades to come. Unlike many victims of sexual assault, Dr. Ford refused to let her assailant from 35 years ago silence her, and in so doing, history will remember her well.
Conversely, from the moment Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrogantly strutted into the Judiciary Committee hearing room, the mask came off. Along with many other women in America, I immediately felt my hackles go up, uncomfortable with the thought of this man being appointed for a lifetime position on the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Maybe it was the odd way he took time to meticulously arrange the scant mess of papers on the table, his name card, and other objects ‘just so.’ Maybe it was the way he slammed open his notebook, or yanked the pages audibly as if to assert who was boss. Or maybe it was the way that, from the get-go, he began yelling belligerently at the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Whatever it was in those first moments, I couldn’t help but see the face of Ted Bundy. The notorious serial killer who raped and brutally murdered at least 30 women had also famously let his mask slip once, while acting as his own defense attorney in court. Reportedly, after his conviction he sprung to his feet shouting, “Tell the jury they were wrong!” when moments before he had been calm, cool and collected, thus showing the the world a glimpse of his erratic and uncloaked narcissistic rage. It was a hard image to put aside, a stark contrast to his well-educated yet genteel charm, and women across the nation were uneasy as they felt they had perhaps witnessed the same menacing ire that each of his female victims saw in their final moments.
When Ted Bundy was finally caught and put on trial in 1979 for the brutal slayings of two female students from the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee, Florida, I could never wrap my head around the irony of the women who supported him. There were literal rows of women – his “groupies” – who showed up at the courthouse for his trial, starstruck and punchdrunk, lusting, drooling over him as they presented themselves dressed just like his victims. It never occurred to them that he was actually guilty, or that if it were a different month or day, any one of them might’ve been next.
Similarly, on Friday, women across 2018 America took to Twitter and social media during Kavanaugh’s hearing to gush. They felt sorry for him. They found his performance believable, heartbreaking, even. They victim blamed, saying Dr. Ford must’ve had a case of mistaken identity. They argued there was no way she could accurately remember the details of this event that had happened 35 years ago. Though, I doubt women who say these things understand the psychology of emotion and memories, or how a high-stress state like Dr. Ford experienced “alters the function of the hippocampus and puts it into a super-encoding mode,” thus ensuring extremely emotional or traumatic events are burned into our brains harder than anything else.
Women even excused Kavanaugh’s allegations by saying how much trouble we’d all be in if we were judged by our high school behaviors from 35 years ago. Again, the irony seemed over the heads of women making these statements. The majority of us who have embarrassing pasts from high school that we’d like to forget are also not attempting to gain an appointment of lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court of the United States. Perhaps what struck me the most, though, was how many women looked at this hearing and saw an “innocent man” who was “unjustly accused,” whose life had been “ruined” by one “reckless accusation.”
“All that man’s hard work and dedication… the American dream, dying. All for nothing,” one person wrote.
Let me be clear, here:
Brett Kavanaugh is not the face of the American Dream, dying.
Sure, he said he “worked his butt off” to get into Yale and that he had “no connections there” to help him get in. But a Google search into his past quickly reveals that most kids don’t grow up like Brett Kavanaugh, who was born into a life steeped with privilege.
Kavanaugh was born white, cis/het, American, the son of married parents in a wealthy household. His mother was a teacher and later a Maryland state Circuit Court judge. His father was an attorney, and head of the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association for two decades. Young Brett grew up very comfortably in the suburbs, lived in a stable home, and attended one of the most expensive private boarding schools in the country, Georgetown Prep, with a current price tag of over $60,000 a year. An elite, all-boys private school, Georgetown Prep, was then – and now – known for its hypermasculine culture and proclivity for heavy drinking.
While Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave a calm, quiet but visibly painful and difficult testimony, Judge Brett Kavanaugh dodged questions and sneered with contempt. While Dr. Ford modeled the very definition of being “collegial” and accommodating, Judge Kavanaugh mocked the process, barely contained his acrimony, and acted inconvenienced over the possibility of being so much as held accountable.
From the start, Brett Kavanaugh painted himself as the virtuous victim caught up in a “circus” atmosphere of uncorroborated sexual assault allegations. During the hearing, his outward behavior cycled at warp speed between incredulous narcissistic rage, petulance, and callow weeping. If it wasn’t overtly obvious he was crying tears of self-pity, he removed any doubt by repeating his disdain over the loss of his “good name.”
Kavanaugh touted his youth activities, academic and professional accolades as if they were concrete evidence of integrity and good moral character. But the disrespect he showed to Senator Amy Klobuchar, after her reasonable, rational question, gave us all we needed to know to understand the character of Brett Kavanaugh. That moment was particularly disgraceful and disgusting – behavior not at all befitting a SCOTUS nominee.
That Kavanaugh – or anyone within Donald Trump’s orbit – has the gall to act like a beseiged underdog is laughable. Anyone who accepts an offer or position to work under Trump knows exactly what they are getting into. I certainly hope by now that everybody understands who Donald Trump is and what kind of controversy he brings and surrounds himself with. Anyone who does business with him, works for him, or is appointed by him should not be surprised by the three ring circus they find themselves entrapped in. For Kavanaugh to lash out and attack “the Democrats” for his own demise, or to turn a powerful sexual assault survivor’s story into a partisan political attack is preposterous.
Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim. Brett Kavanaugh is a man privileged in every possible way. Brett Kavanaugh is someone who, on luck alone, hit the jackpot of American high society rather than someone who did the hard work and bootstraps pulling that constitutes the American dream. Brett Kavanaugh, throughout his hearing, appeared to be a man who thinks he’s not only entitled, but also, that he’s owed even more. He may still get confirmed, yet he’s acting as if the possibility of not achieving SCOTUS status, but merely remaining on the second highest American federal court, would be destitution – a calamity. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim; he’s a grown man behaving like a spoiled child when faced with the possibility that he might not get his way for the first time, ever.