Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On Kavanaugh

There is nothing good about what is going on with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy. I have been actively trying to shield myself from the constant clatter of opposing social media volleys, unsuccessfully mostly, not because I have any particular dog in this fight, but because I find the whole situation emblematic of our nation's decline. That decline is increasingly depressing.

I will assume the reader is familiar with all the history. Bork. Thomas. Garland. Nuclear options.

How we got here is interesting but far less important that the fact that we ARE here. We are in a place where a woman accuses a man of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago when both were teenagers. The accused went on to a successful career and is currently a federal judge. The President nominated him to the Supreme Court, and the accuser (Professor Christine Blasey Ford) came forward with her accusations, breaking the lid off of an already runaway process. Virtually every other aspect of this situation is tainted by politics, score settling, or team divisions (sex-based and again, political).

I simply do not know who to believe in this matter, but I do know that I will not believe either of them (or the second accuser whose story seems somewhat problematic) without some evidence. During a long and emotional conversation recently, I took pains to point out that I see both sides of this tragedy. I see a young woman, attacked and alone, who feels she cannot tell anyone what has happened to her. I see a 53 year old man who has lived what appears to be an exemplary life, without means to address an unfalsifiable claim. My interlocutor was more than willing to grant me the horrible situation Kavanaugh is in, without means to prove that he did not do something. But when pressed for how we resolve this, my friend said, "we just have to believe the woman". No can do.

There is stray voltage from both sides here. I am unimpressed with the "this isn't a trial, it is a job interview and so the rules of evidence are demonstrably less" argument. I am also not impressed with the "she must be telling the truth because why else would she come forward" argument. The former ignores the importance of truth as truth, and the latter ignores the many motivations people have for their actions.

On the other side, Kavanaugh's virginity (or not) is unrelated to the charge. I am also not convinced that calendars -- even kept by a precocious teen -- would mention sexual assault.

So here we are, a nation tearing itself up. I saw someone today on Twitter make a comparison of our divisions to that which existed in the 1850's. He was loathe to say would might be our 1860's.

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