Originally published: New York, Sept. 27, 2018 | Return to Main Directory of Articles
As it Happened

Dear Friend and Reader:

In any sane version of the world, what we witnessed today before the Senate Judiciary Committee would not have happened. The hearing would not have taken place because what Christine Blasey Ford says she experienced should not have happened.

And in any sane version of politics, the hearing would never have occurred, either. When a political appointee becomes this embattled, they are usually withdrawn. That is, with one notable exception in living memory: Clarence Thomas, Monsanto's representative on the Supreme Court.

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Christine Blasey Ford was sworn in to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo by Erin Schaff for The New York Times.
We can thank Pres. Trump for the fact that today's confrontation between Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh and the Senate Judiciary Committee was broadcast to the public. The president could have ended this, but he chose not to.

What takes place so deliberately within a political environment is political by design, and that is an important context in which to view this. I will get to this in a moment.

The whole matter could have been referred to the FBI as a seemingly impartial, third-party finder of fact. It was not. It could have been handled privately, behind the scenes; it was not. It could have come out a long time ago; it did not. It has exploded into consciousness.

Whatever led to this moment, we heard directly from Dr. Ford about what she says occurred at a social gathering when she was 15 years old. I listened carefully, and to me, she seems credible. There is no way to answer the kind of detail she offered, both physical and emotional, with a denial. Were Kavanaugh a criminal defendant, and were we to present this same testimony to a jury, would you vote to convict?

One important difference would be that in a courtroom situation, both sides would be entitled to cross-examination; that did not happen today. The result is that we are left with one-sided presentations. That can be very dangerous. There are no corroborating witnesses. There are no third-party findings of fact. Dr. Ford has called for an FBI investigation; Kavanaugh has not, and Trump has not authorized one.

In fact, at 4:45 pm, when Kavanaugh was asked whether he would support an FBI investigation into Ford's allegations, he was silent. He did not say yes. The term "deer in headlights" describes his response [listen to 51-second audio here].

We are into the territory of believing or not believing, and Dr. Ford is, at least, believable. Yet to be honest, we would admit that we must take her at her word, and that there is no proof or tangible evidence. We may choose to trust her, though there are all kinds of untrustworthy people who get us to believe them as well -- particularly in this time when we want, so urgently, to make this world a better place. As for Kavanaugh, if he did what he is accused of, he has no choice but to deny it.

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President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, testifying a few weeks ago. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin.
That said, we might ask why this was allowed onto national television, specifically by Trump. That is not a rhetorical question. Trump alone could have made this spectacle go away, and he did not.

That is how it happened. One result is that this is continuing to galvanize a women's movement in the United States and in the world, despite him. Or maybe that will be Trump's karmic role.

It is tragic that it's a movement based on a response to violence and not based on building the future. It is based on conflict and not on collaboration. Had you asked me as a kid growing up during Second Wave feminism of the 1970s, I would have been certain we'd be far beyond this point today; we seem to have slipped backwards by decades or more. 

Another result is that we are getting a window into other facets of American culture, in this case youth culture, that are open secrets.

Whatever may have happened to Dr. Ford, when alcohol and unsupervised teenagers are in the same place, bad things can happen, and happen all the time. We live in a society that extols violence, and that freely associates violence with sex. We live in a society where, traditionally, boys have been encouraged to be assertive and aggressive and girls have been encouraged to be quiet and accommodating.

What Dr. Ford says occurred that night in 1982 might seem like it's confined to elite schools, though actually, it sounds like it could have happened at any public high school or state school anywhere, at least in the United States. Drinking culture is accepted as a fact of "normal” teen and campus culture. It's also a part of our whole society and many cultures throughout the world, from Tokyo to Amsterdam to Moscow to the street I live on.

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Youth binge drinking is considered normal.
By Dr. Ford's own testimony today, she said she could not tell her parents what happened because she would have also had to tell them that she had been to a party with unsupervised boys, all of whom were drinking underage. So as it so often does, alcohol became the elixir of lies, secrets and silence. 

Dr. Ford did not say she was afraid she would not be believed; she was afraid that she would have been blamed.

While we are sorting out the issues of sexual aggression -- which has happened to many women and many men -- and while we're sorting out the issues of teenage binge drinking, parents and school administrators need to take up Dr. Ford's particular motive for remaining silent, and do something about it.

But it's not just kids. Alcohol, freely available to nearly anyone, is associated with domestic violence, with death on the highways and with many other problems on every level of society. Prohibition did not work. There is a far more serious problem beneath the one we're looking at. All of this alcohol is serving a purpose, dark though it is. As Dr. Carl Jung said to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, spirit is a replacement for Spirit.

While we're on the topic of sexual transgression, in my experience working with hundreds of survivors, the problem almost always begins in the home. That's another open secret that I have not seen referenced once in the past year.

*        *        *

So why, exactly, did Trump and the Senate's Republican leadership allow today's hearing to happen? A lot is on the line for women right now. Brett Kavanaugh would have many assignments if he sat on the Supreme Court, and one of them is to be the fifth vote to repeal Roe v. Wade. I can say this confidently because he has the approval of the Heritage Foundation. 

To let this hearing go forward, Republicans have likely done serious damage to their election prospects in November, and could lose both houses of Congress, whether or not Kavanaugh is approved by the Senate to sit on the court. By any normal political calculus, it's just insane.

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Pres. Donald Trump. Reuters photo.
And that is an indicator of how important it is to right-wing strategists and many ordinary people to eliminate Roe v. Wade. If this all seems politically desperate, that is, in my view, the root of the desperation. 

To repeal Roe would, from my perspective, be an act of violence against women and girls alive today, and those of future generations. It is a direct attack on the legal personhood of women.

Today, we have little idea what our forebears went through first to get women the vote, and then to ensure access to safe and legal abortion. Between the two is access to birth control, and honest information about sex, both of which are also under attack.

To outlaw women's autonomy over their bodies, which would mean to return half the population to the status of chattel or non-people, is an inherently violent act, on a scale we cannot imagine. The consequences would be so dystopian we can only approach them in fiction.

Brett Kavanaugh as he has been presented to us is a fitting metaphor for that aggression and disregard of the humanity of women, as are all the politicians who are supporting him. 

This is a warning about the mentality lurking behind this strange movement to deny women autonomy over their medical choices and family planning -- indeed, their whole lives.

The notion that Evangelical Christians would pressure Trump into delivering this nomination, and the fact that he would respond by leaving Kavanaugh's nomination live through this insanity, tells us something about who is really running the country at the moment. It's telling us something about the agenda of an actual patriarchy, a theocracy, and what has been referred to in the past as the American Taliban.

They are no longer hiding this fact; they are being rather brazen about it. While we're looking at a very ugly, life-altering day in the life of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, we need to look at this agenda as well -- whether or not Kavanaugh ever serves on the high court -- before it becomes the story of our lives.

We already live in the time of government by ambush, by emotional assault, by drama, by news leak and where nonparticipants -- the apathetic and nonvoters -- have way too much influence. And we are alive in a time when we need to work together to solve many serious, imminent problems the world is facing, and often forget.

As for what is happening now: We are left to trust that all things work together for good.

With love,
P.S. This morning I wrote a special comment, available here, on the astrology of today's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which began at 10 am and could be watched via live stream.
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