Yesterday, I watched the entire testimonies of both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, plus hours of commentary on MSNBC and Fox News afterward. I also watched much of today’s committee meeting and vote, including the unexpected and confusing end where Jeff Flake said he would move the issue out of committee, but would not vote yes in the Senate Confirmation unless there was an FBI investigation into current allegations (and the GOP has since thankfully asked Trump to order the FBI to open an investigation, and Trump has ordered a “supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file.”) It has been an emotional two days – more emotional than I was expecting.
I knew I wanted to watch Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony. This was history. I was a freshman in college when Anita Hill testified. I was not politically aware at that time, and quite frankly, I cared more about having recently broken up with my high school boyfriend; dating all the new guys I was meeting and acclimating to college. I still identified as pro-life at the time. I was not a feminist. I did not care about Anita Hill, or Clarence Thomas, or about the Supreme Court. So, when I sat down yesterday, I sat down, on some level, excited that I was about to witness history in real time.
I wanted to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony. I care about sexual assault survivors. I am thankful that I have never had an experience like Dr. Ford, although as noted in a previous blog post from 2016, I certainly have had some very unpleasant experiences with boys and men touching me inappropriately. But what I’m trying to say is, when I sat down to watch Dr. Ford’s testimony, I was not expecting to identify with her so completely. I was expecting to witness history; watch a woman tell her story, and to support her. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally drained at the end of the day. I didn’t expect to be so angry, and I didn’t expect those feelings to carry over into today.
I also didn’t understand where those feelings were coming from exactly. Yes, I am now an adamantly pro-choice, feminist, liberal who will likely oppose any nominee that Trump or any other Republican puts forward. I have opposed Brett Kavanaugh from day one. I was surprised when Dr. Ford’s allegations came to light, but I did not immediately say “I believe Christine Blasey Ford.” I believe we have an epidemic of sexual violence in this country that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of or come close to understanding. The fact that I have been repeatedly touched on various body parts without my consent throughout my own life – from the time I was a child to as recently as three years ago, and yet I don’t consider myself to have been “assaulted” speaks to how deeply ingrained sexual violence is in our culture. But I still don’t think you should automatically believe someone just because they say something happened.
This is the context in which I sat down to listen to Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies. But from the moment I saw Dr. Ford’s sweet, terrified face, things began to change in me. I immediately became emotional. Seeing her sitting; waiting; periodically listening to her lawyer whisper what I imagine were comforting statements in her ear, I cried in awe of her bravery. As the morning wore on, I found myself riveted to her testimony. It wasn’t just the raw honesty and emotion pouring out from Dr. Ford; I was feeling something deeper; more personal.
Then came Judge Kavanaugh, and his emotional response. I was listening to his blistering opening statement about how his life and family had been destroyed. I saw his wife behind him, silently willing strength to her husband. She was hurting, and she was hurting for him. When Judge Kavanaugh began to show his own emotion and struggle not to cry, I could see his near-tears were real and authentic, but there was something different to me about his authenticity versus Dr. Ford’s. Putting aside Judge Kavanaugh’s blatant verbal attack of the Democratic Senators and how he was treated specifically by them, there was something markedly different about my gut response to his emotional expression than what I felt when I watched and listened to Dr. Ford. I didn’t think it could be simply explained away that I, as a woman, naturally identified more with Dr. Ford than I did with Kavanaugh, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. At one point, I even paused Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony and said to my husband, “I see his emotion... I see it is real, and I want to believe him, but I don’t. I am desperately trying to put myself in his head space, and see what I would feel if I were in his shoes – or even what I would think if you were in his shoes? I know you would defend yourself vigorously against any false accusation, but I can’t imagine you coming out fuming and blaming Democrats for a conspiracy against you and revenge for the Clintons or Trump Presidency. I just don’t feel it from him.”
I watched Kavanaugh be accusatory, sarcastic and aggressive. I watched him stumble over his responses. I watched him sit in defiant silence when he ultimately refused to answer Dick Durbin’s call to turn to Don McGahn and ask for an FBI investigation to clear his name.
And then came Lindsey Graham and his apoplectic comments to the committee (some, but not all noted below.)
“What you [Democrats] want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win [the presidency] in 2020. You said that! Not me!”
“You [Kavanaugh] got nothing to apologize for! When you see [Justices] Sotomayer and Kagan, say hello because I voted for them. I’d never do to them what you’ve done to this guy. This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy.”
“I cannot imagine what you [Kavanaugh] and your family have gone through. Boy, y'all [Democrats] want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham!”
“This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap.”
“I hope you’re [Kavanaugh] on the Supreme Court. That’s exactly where you should be. And I hope that the American people will see through this charade. And I wish you well, and I intend to vote for you, and I hope everybody who’s fair minded will.”
Lindsey Graham’s anger was visceral; primal. His colleagues; Brett Kavanaugh; the viewers, and I think even Graham himself were surprised by his outburst. It had been clear for the entire day that Graham was angry, but I don’t think he or anyone else expected him to express it exactly when and how he did.
Up until this moment, things were not going well for Brett Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford’s compelling testimony was still very fresh in everyone’s mind, and Judge Kavanaugh, through his anger and evasion, was not coming off as nearly credible or likeable. But after Senator Graham’s outburst, the entire tone of the day shifted. Kavanaugh became the victim. Republican Senator after Republican Senator was seemingly emboldened by Graham’s speech, and thereafter essentially acted as if the morning’s testimony hadn’t happened. They complained about how the Democrats had mishandled Dr. Ford’s letter, so obviously this was all just a Democratic ploy. Even when some Republicans thought it irresponsible to completely dismiss Dr. Ford’s testimony, they implied she was wrong. “I don’t doubt that something happened to her; it just wasn’t this," they all seemed to be saying. The power of Dr. Ford’s testimony began melting away before my eyes, and my blood began to boil.
It seems glaringly obvious to me now as I type out Senator Graham’s comments and think about what the visceral feelings I felt actually were, but it wasn’t until this afternoon, after watching the committee vote and re-watching scenes from yesterday’s testimonies and yelling with my husband about ‘who said what’, and wondering what was going to happen next, that I finally was able to pin-point it. Months ago, this nomination started as a typical “Democrats vs. Republicans”; “pro-choice vs. anti-choice”; “presidents can or cannot be under investigation and held accountable for their crimes” battle. Yesterday morning started as an opportunity for a potential survivor to tell her story, or at worst, a “he said/she said” situation. But what I ultimately ended up witnessing yesterday was rich, white male power and privilege; patriarchy and rape culture on trial. So much of what this country has been divided over and screaming about for the past two years was distilled and personified into two people: Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. I identified with Dr. Ford because she was me, and she represented the “everywoman” or maybe even more accurately the everyperson who had ever been wronged; not listened to and not heard in America. Brett Kavanaugh represented pure, rich, white, male privilege. As he habitually recounted his life’s accomplishments instead of answering questions, I could almost hear him screaming through his frustrated and angry tone, “I went to Georgetown Prep and Yale! I worked for Presidents – this does not happen! I did everything right! How dare you? This does not happen to people like me! This is bullshit!” This was why I could not feel empathy for or identify with him during his emotional testimony. Not because his emotions weren’t real or raw, but because on some level, he was lamenting the loss of his privilege. He was angry and hurt about potentially losing this nomination, and he was angry that his family had been hurt, but he was also angry and terrified that his way of life was in danger.
I think Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch felt the same way and saw the same thing. They saw themselves in Brett Kavanaugh, and saw not only their Republican power being diminished, but the power and forces that had helped them become who they are today being crushed. They saw a crack begin to form in the patriarchy, and they responded immediately and viscerally to seal it. It was why after Dr. Ford’s testimony, the best comments Senator Hatch could come up with was that she wasn’t “uncredible”, and that she was “attractive” or “pleasing.” It was why Lindsey Graham either acted like he hadn’t or actively didn’t listen to Dr. Ford’s testimony and doubled-down on this being a Democratic conspiracy led by Chuck Schumer. It is why Graham said on Sean Hannity last night, “I think Dr. Ford has a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life isn’t going to fix it.” It’s also why, after Lindsey Graham lost his shit, that his Republican colleagues were emboldened; the Democrats seemed to fizzle, and the tone of the entire day changed.
It’s why Fox News chose for hours to barely show any parts of Dr. Ford’s testimony, but repeatedly showed Lindsey Graham’s outburst and Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement. It’s why Geraldo Rivera chalked this up as nothing more than Democrats being worried about Roe, and why Hannity ranted about this being a tactic directly out of the Democratic Party “playbook” and that our very Democracy and the rule of law was at stake, if the Democrats can get away with such scurrilous and evil tactics.
But it’s also precisely why I am still so pissed off today. It’s why thousands of people were inspired to call into crisis hotlines and CSPAN, and go on social media to tell their own stories after watching Dr. Ford tell her story. It’s why two women confronted Senator Flake this morning; told him their stories, and forced him to stand up to his party and at least attempt to get an investigation. I don’t want to turn this into something it’s not, but I can’t help the way I feel, and I don’t think I’m alone. I think there were thousands of people across the country who felt the same thing -whether they identified with Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh – they felt it. We saw the foundation shake as Dr. Ford testified; we watched the crack form as Kavanaugh whined and yelled, and then we saw it heal itself right back up as Graham and his colleagues took over.
I know I said in my first post back here that I want to bring people together, but if I’m being truly honest with myself today, I don’t really know what that means. I don’t want to contribute to the divide in this country; I really don’t. But I can’t just keep going forward trying to be the “good girl.” I don’t want to just be nice and considerate anymore if it perpetuates the status quo. I have a rage inside me that I have been suppressing all my adult life, and it has just been growing and growing over the past two years, and it has finally boiled over after the past two days. I don’t know what I am going to do with it, but I have to figure something out. I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I am grateful to the two women who confronted Senator Flake, and I am grateful that Senator Flake ultimately worked with Democrats to get an investigation. I don’t know what will happen, but this is a start. I saw the crack. You saw the crack. The Republicans and the Democrats saw the crack, and even if the crack was quickly sealed, and Brett Kavanaugh is ultimately confirmed, we all can’t unsee it.
“Bravery is contagious.” (Senator Patrick Leahy to Dr. Ford, 9/27/18)
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.