What a Worrisome Week
I did sit through the Congressional Hearings this week … the three hours of Dr. Ford’s presentations of her high school experience with Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh, and his five hours of response. The day before the hearings, I flipped back and forth between the two polarized networks, CNN and FOX news coverages.
Television is a powerful medium … it provides both visual via the occipital lobe, and auditory input via the temporal lobe of our brains and that doubles the impact of the input. When I listen to NPR’s WBUR fm radio broadcasts late at night, there is only the auditory input, though my own active mind’s eye provides imagined visual input via the occipital cortex of the temporal lobe, and that impression is nearly as powerful.
Sadly, the unforgettable events of this week will remain with me, and does have an effect on my overall mood. I am saddened by the loss of the apolitical third branch of government: our Supreme Court was designed to have the power to check the powers of both the executive and legislative branches of our government. For years I taught my students that the judges chosen for that highest of branches were chosen for their impartiality … their demonstrated ability to remain objective, to be non-partisan in their judgements, and to be above the political fray of the other two branches. The sole responsibility of the Supreme Court is to uphold Constitutional Law, and to hear only those cases involving constitutional issues that have proceeded through the lower courts.
Brett Kavanaugh feels he has earned this seat on the Supreme Court because he has spent more than two decades of his life in ‘high political positions’ under President Bush … as a Federal Justice … as a member of the impeachment hearings of President Clinton … prior to this week, he insisted on not answering some questions relative to the president’s culpability by saying he had to remain independent and politically impartial.
Certainly, he had to defend himself. Yet he defended himself in yesterday’s hearings with anger, with vitriole, with nearly ‘histrionic’ tears and sobs, claiming that having to hear and defend himself against Dr. Ford’s allegations has destroyed his name, his career and his family, and accusing the minority party, the democrats, as being on a ‘search and destroy’ mission, and further accused them of phrasing their questions as ‘revenge for the Clintons.’ He clearly aligned himself with the majority party … the republicans who, under direction of the republican President Trump, had already determined that Dr. Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were merely a ‘hiccup’ to be briefly heard before the nomination proceeded forward.
Only when a group of women confronted one of the ‘undecideds’ in an elevator, did the request for an investigation of the allegations by the FBI become an insistence tied to a critical 51st vote for confirmation. Dr. Ford had asked for such an investigation; the democratic senators had asked for such an investigation; Kavanaugh himself said he would welcome such an investigation IF the majority party also requested it, but they had not.
I have watched, and listened to, all of these dialogues. My anger flared as I learned that Dr. Ford, a respected psychologist who had requested confidentiality, and her family were the recipients of hate mail and death threats following the release of her name. My heart broke as Dr. Ford told her recollection of the ‘alleged’ sexual assault … her fear that she might have died as she could not breathe with Kavanaugh’s hand on her mouth … her vivid recall of his and his buddy’s ‘uproarious laughter’ at her expense while he was on top of her, trying to remove her clothing … And her explanation that these memories, though decades old, were firmly imbedded in her hippocampus brought back my own experience, long ago imbedded permanently in my own hippocampus. Those old memories suddenly, obtrusively, became vivid, tactile, and emotionally smothering.
No one had put a hand over my mouth during those long months of nightly, illicit visits to my childhood bedside in the boys bedroom (where I had been moved as there was overcrowding in the girls room.) I was under the age of ten, and would never have told anyone what was happening to me … for to tell would have brought physical punishment onto the one who was doing this, and I would feel guilty for having kept silent and ‘allowing’ it to happen as long as it did. It had been interrupted and stopped by my moving upstairs to sleep safely in my recently married female cousin’s room … and the result was that, once I was removed from the scene, another had begun to have the visits. But she was younger, and indignant and felt no protective guilt, and called him out and told our parents … and he was then sent away to be guided toward better behavior by priests. I later went to church and confessed that I had hid the truth from my parents, and the priest who had heard my confession gave me a penance of two Our Fathers and three Hail Marys, and my secret remained my secret and nothing more came of it.
The congressional vote on Kavanaugh is now postponed for a week, to allow the FBI to do whatever level of investigation President Trump will allow. I do not know why he has the power to set the parameters of the investigation … I do not remember that as being delineated as one of the president’s powers in the Constitution … I guess it is because this is a political rather than criminal investigation. That, I believe, is a mistake in itself. Perhaps the statute of limitations for a criminal accusation has expired after 36 years since Dr. Ford’s experience. More than half a century has elapsed since mine … and yet, it is today as fresh as though it were yesterday. It may always be so, when triggered by news of another’s similar, openly-admitted event.
I fear for our country, as I once feared for myself, and for my abuser.
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