All, there have been a lot of Kavanaugh takes in the last few days– here is one more, with the hopes that my particular perspective might be of some interest. (note, this is cross-posted from my former campaign Facebook page)
Starting last week, I had intended to write — possibly in an op-ed — about how this entire confirmation process was going to further damage both our politics and the Supreme Court as an institution in ways people don’t fully understand. I thought that Senate GOP and White House actions in this process may well push Democrats into extreme measures such as court-packing in coming years.
But I saw and heard most of the hearing yesterday, and the conduct of Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the Senators— and it just cut so deep on more levels than I could have possibly imagined. So I’m writing something different.
As it happened, yesterday I guest-lectured at a college sociology class at U Mass Lowell, about the experience of being transgender. At one point, I was asked— as I nearly always am— about how I have been treated differently as a woman, and if and how I have had to change my behavior to succeed as a woman in my career or in professional settings, especially as a leader and in the public arena.
I talked about how it took me years to navigate the minefield. Speak up for yourself— but not too much, and don’t directly contradict, or you are “shrill”. Show no emotion, and you aren’t steady, you are a cold ice-queen. Just right, you are approachable. Too much, you are weak and hysterical. And don’t interact with enough deference and non-threatening signaling— you are a not nice word ending with itch. And though I’ve generally been told I am a warm person, yes, I was told in this very campaign that I “need to smile more”.
Having just talked about that, I then saw and heard Judge Kavanaugh yesterday. And I state with some unique life experience that were Kavanaugh a woman, he would have doomed his nomination by breaking all the rules I described above. But he’s a man, so he can yell, cry, interrupt Senators again and again, including disrespectfully posing questions back to them, and he’s fine. Even when his only smiles were dismissive ones.
I join in the fury of so many in America at that spectacle, especially so many women, and especially as juxtaposed with how Dr. Ford so clearly followed and was constrained by “the rules” in a way that Judge Kavanaugh was not.
Then, I also was so struck by the unmistakable air of elite privilege about him. I know it well. I was born in New Haven. Yale was a short walk away. On financial aid and work-study, I went to U. Penn and then Brown. At both schools— even Brown, which I loved— there were plenty of young men (and some women) who just exuded that same attitude I saw in Judge Kavanaugh today. Entitled. Above it all. Patronizing. Indignant about ever being challenged or told no. And they can never admit that they are wrong.
It is not disqualifying for a Justice on the Supreme Court to be an Ivy League graduate or a member of the so-called Northeast elite– oh, far from it– but the temperament that I saw today is not what we need on the Court.
And then there is what that temperament tells me about the allegations against him.
I once knew a man who if people were to use one word to describe him, it would probably be “gentle”, “shy”, and “smart”. Maybe “funny.” He was into Medieval English poetry, did his undergrad thesis on Geoffrey Chaucer— even taught his eldest child how to recite the opening of the Canterbury Tales in Old English. “Nerdy” would be another word people would use to describe him. He didn’t have many friends, but such as he had, they would, I’m sure, have written letters testifying to him being a really great guy.
Yet when he would start drinking at night, always alone and at home, with no outside witnesses— he would get paranoid, depressed— and then belligerent. We would have conversations — sometimes very sad or angry ones, where he sometimes said horrible things — that he would later deny up and down ever happened. The thing is, when he would deny those occurrences, that is when the drunken belligerence (he would call it “affected”) would creep into his normal gentle disposition. He would be dismissive, angry, and he provided my introduction to the concept of gas-lighting. I’ll never know if he was simply lying through his teeth, whether he convinced himself that was all true in some sort of psychological self-protection, or whether he simply didn’t remember.
That man was my father, who I loved very much, who died when I was 17.
Some— including Judge Kavanaugh— talk about the prospect of him not being confirmed as ruining his life, as destroying him and his family.
I’ve seen actually ruined lives and destroyed families— close up and personal. In a sense, those very words by Judge Kavanaugh, that very attitude, stands as another disqualifier of his nomination. Whatever the power of his legal mind— his values, his perspective of the world, and his place in it is just too distorted to provide him with the integrity to dispense what the Court promises above its door: Equal Justice Under Law.
Judge Kavanaugh clearly believes some of us— the likes of him— are more equal than others. Today proved that.
The Senate should vote no on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
To Dr. Blasey Ford, all I have left to say is thank you.
Finally, to my many survivor friends and family, some of whom I have heard from yesterday and today, my heart is with you.