On Tuesday evening, I attended the Me Too Kingston panel discussion at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. I want to take a moment to thank those who spoke — all of the panelists were engaging and offered valuable information and insight into this most courant of au courant topics.
Tuesday’s talk, along with a five-hour training course about sexual harassment and child sex abuse I took on Saturday, has given me a lot to process. I’m personally realizing in a way I don’t think I ever truly have that being a white male in American society gives me power by default that people of color and women don’t have. I am also realizing that while I have never thought of myself as being a particularly powerful or threatening person, the authority that I do have as the editor of this paper and as a member of the vestry of a small Episcopal church down in Marlboro can be abused if I’m not careful with it. In general, I think this is a time for men to open both our ears and our hearts and listen, carefully, and to take seriously to what women are saying about what they’ve gone through in their lives. Rather than trying to put up walls of denial and obfuscation, men should work toward radical honesty about how women are treated and our own individual behavior and beliefs. It’s going to be a long and difficult path to walk, but at the end of it is a better world with a lot less pain for all of us.
There is, however, a matter that needs immediate attention, and that is the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While, as of Wednesday evening anyway, Senate Republicans seem bent on ramming it through no matter what, I don’t think he belongs there.
Being appointed to the Supreme Court means you are one of the most powerful people in the world, who can only lose that power — barring the very rare (it’s only happened once) impeachment — by dying or quitting of one’s own accord. No matter how a justice behaves or what’s found out about a justice after appointment, the public can’t vote anybody off that bench. Should not the bar one has to clear for getting that power be extraordinarily high?
I believe Christine Blasey Ford. She knows full well the shredding Anita Hill got when she went to the Senate to talk about her experience with Clarence Thomas. She can surely expect the same treatment, and maybe worse. Who on earth would volunteer for that unless they knew they were absolutely right about who attacked them?
I, too, was an at-times drunken 17-year-old boy in the mid-1980s. I am not pointing out that I did not sexually assault anyone when I was 17 to try to bring some kind of #NotAllMen glow of moral superiority to myself. I am pointing it out to merely affirm that it is, contrary to what I’ve heard from some of Kavanaugh’s supporters, actually possible to be a drunken 17-year-old boy and not sexually assault anybody.
For me, it comes down to empathy. To grope, try to undress and then cover the mouth of someone else to prevent that person from screaming for help indicates to me a dramatic lack of perception of the fear that person is feeling in that moment. That’s an empathy deficit of profound depth. While we all can grow out of many things, I don’t know if anyone can go from being like that to being able to get over the extraordinarily high bar to be on the Supreme Court. I don’t want someone who might have that little empathy to have that much power. Do you?