I am writing this on the Wednesday that the FBI is supposedly going to supply the US Senate with the results of its investigation on the charges of sexual abuse made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. So, I write this without knowledge of the FBI report nor the outcome of the Senate’s vote on whether or not to confirm Kavanaugh. I also will disclose that even before Dr. Ford’s allegations, I was hoping his confirmation would be denied for other reasons than these most recent ones. Like many people I watched portions of Dr. Ford’s moving testimony and then portions of Judge Kavanaugh’s defense. I found Dr. Ford’s words compelling and credible, whereas I found that Judge Kavanaugh’s aggressive responses made me wonder “What is he hiding?”
With all that as backdrop. I must admit I found myself feeling with the judge, not because I have committed anything even remotely close to what he is being accused of, but because I wonder: Who among us would want to be evaluated on our high school or college self? If the FBI were to investigate my past, while they would not find anything like sexual abuse, they would find many things I said or did that today would be quite embarrassing. I have grown, matured and developed since those days, even though who I am today is a result of those experiences and what I learned about myself.
At the same time, as I listened to Dr. Ford, I was struck by how something that happened 36 years ago has impacted her ever since that time. As she spoke I could see the pain and fear of that terrifying night was still very much part of her psyche and being. And it was something for Judge Kavanaugh could not and does not remember. Perhaps he blacked out. Perhaps it was “no big deal” in his mind, but for Dr. Ford it was life-changing and life shattering, and it took great courage for her to come forward as she did.
What sticks with me is how things that I have said and done can have a lifelong impact. I have been a youth worker, pastor, professor, father, husband and a friend to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people over the last 40+ years since my high school and college years. And I am left to wonder: Who did I hurt? Who has scars that I had a part in creating? Every once in a while, I get an email, a card or a phone call from a former student or parishioner thanking me for something I have said or done. The other day I heard from one of the kids (he is now in his 50’s!) who I worked with as youth worker when I was in my early 20’s. But rarely have I ever heard from someone who I hurt, whose life was negatively altered because of me.
I am not making some grand confession of some deep dark sins, but rather recognizing that like everyone I meet, I too am a broken person. And broken people hurt other people, sometimes purposely, but often unknowingly. As the Dutch priest and writer Henri Nouwen taught me, we are all sinners and we are all sinned against. To try and project a perfectly sinless state is to deny our own humanity. When I watched the judge’s aggressive self-defense, I felt like I was watching his humanity fade away, and I realized that in that he had very likely damaged another person’s humanity.
As he stated in his testimony, Judge Kavanaugh has a lot to lose if the allegations are true and so he has denied them. Given the political polarization in the Senate, even if Dr. Ford’s allegations are validated, he could get confirmed. Yet he will have lost a lot more than his reputation, and his victims and other abused women will feel silenced and devalued. And we all will have lost a bit of our humanity and humility. As Jesus alluded when the woman caught in adultery was brought to him for judgement and a stoning (1) – none of us are without sin; none of us are innocent; all of us are broken people who have hurt others.
(1) John 8.1-11
Thank you Drick. As always you delve into a situation, and bring out so much in very few words. I am always informed, going back to when I was one of your kids (in my late 40s).
What you bring to this issue, Drick, is the willingness to acknowledge your past. You bring a reflective spirit to wondering how you’ve grown, evolved, changed and moved through life since high school and college. While a Supreme Court hearing is difficult place to admit high school ‘sins,’ the staunch effort to paint a picture of oneself that is quite different than what others remember or your yearbook suggests indicates a sense of denial and entitlement that is super troubling. Even if he acknowledged that he doesn’t know who he’s hurt, many if not most of his detractors would forgive him for 35 year transgressions. His well coordinated effort to paint himself other than he really is (or maybe the better term is ‘more fully is’) is what I find appalling.
What in God’s green earth makes all of you so blind. Is it your hatred of all things Trump? I have another question. Have any of you read the report by Rachel Mitchell, the nationaly acclaimed sex crimes prosecutor? Do you even care to what she wrote? So Drick, someone comes up from your high school years and claims you assaluted her. She can’t remember the time, place or year. Can’t remember how she got there or how she got home. However, she sounded believable and you must be found quilty even though you denied it. I get it. No, I really don’t.
Steve – No I have not read Rachel Mitchell’s report – so what did she write? You always want to take it back to Pres. Trump, but until last night he was being very patient with the process. I am referring to his comments about Dr. Ford at the rally in Mississippi. In any situation that is uncalled for. He said similar things about Stormy Daniels and lo and behold the charges turned out to be true! Now I don’t put Dr. Ford and Stormy in the same category. Dr. Ford was reluctant but sincere witness. Are you saying she was insincere. I find that hard to believe.
As I said, Kavanaugh may get confirmed either way. All I was trying to say is our actions matter – now and years later
Drick, The fact that you are writing about Ford and how believable she was and haven’t even read or heard about Matthews report shows how woefully uninformed you are. You also didn’t reply to my comment about you being unjustly accused by someone. How would you feel Drick?
Great reflection, Prof. Boyd!
I didn’t respond to your comment about being falsely accused. I assumed it was a rhetorical statement. Obviously being accused of something 36 years ago, true or false, but especially false, would be devastating. However, Judge Kavanaugh is applying to highest court in the land. He is a public person, and so the scrutiny he is under is much greater; there are no passes when you are public person. When I was a pastor I was a public person, and I was falsely accused of some awful things, but it comes with the territory. It tests your integrity – are you able to admit when you are wrong (which on occasion I had to do) and if you are being falsely accused, can you make your case and maintain your respect for the process and the people guiding it? What I saw during Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing was a man on the ropes, who could not even admit he got drunk in college. He attacked those who questioned him. He called the whole a process a Clinton-inspired conspiracy; that lacks integrity. He has since apologized for being too “emotional” but under stress, he showed something of his true character, and it was not pretty.
As for the Matthews report, I hadn’t heard there was one until you mentioned it. I look it up and read a summary. Matthews points out that there were many things that Dr.Ford does not remember, and that is true. What is telling however (in contrast to the judge) is she admitted when she didn’t not remember; she told the truth. This was not the first she told this the story of this account. years ago she told her husband and talked with a therapist. She may not remember all the facts ( which certainly hurt her case), but she wasn’t lying or trying to hide anything – Kavanaugh clearly did – not necessarily sexual abuse – only two or maybe three people know the truth of that – but lesser things.
I sure would not want to be a Democrat or a liberal going before him court! How can a man who can not be true about himself respect a view that is different than his own? How can he be impartial? He revealed his political biases loud and clear. How can anyone get a fair hearing?
Lindsay Graham went off on his Democratic colleagues for what he felt was circus – the worst he has ever seen in the Senate. I have two words for Sen. Graham: Merrick Garland. The Democrats have played political hardball in this hearing, but the seed was sown when the Republicans would not even schedule a hearing for Pres. Obama’s nominee. I don’t support the Democrats’ tactics because it just sows more discord in an already divided Congress, but it is a direct result of the Merrick Garland case.
We need more leaders like Jeff Flake and Chris Coons who are willing to disagree yet work together. That is why I want to keep this dialogue going. People who think like you and people who think like me have to get past name calling and accusations, despite our differences. Honesty with respect – that is what is needed.
Drick, I don’t blame Kavanaugh one bit for lashing out. What he said was from the heart about being falsely accused and the devastation it had on his family. You picking hairs about his high school years is wrong but I expect it from you. For for you to proclaim that people like me and you have to get along and get past the name calling just about knocked me out of my seat. Sorry Drick, but I have challenged often about your inflammatory language and name calling. I challenged you on comparing Trump to Hitler and your response was to doubled down on the Hitler comparison. ( For those who read this blog Drick responded to me about Hitler through email instead of the blog.) Drick, if you don’t think you often use name calling and inflammatory language I challenge you to go back and reread your blogs and my responses regarding your language.
PS After three days of an intense intervention my brother refused treatment and probably won’t last much longer. Very sad. He is only 64. Two girls.
Steven – My comparison of Trump to Hitler was reinforced by scholars who have looked at the issue from a historical lens and the patterns of other authoritarian rulers. According to very bright people, Pres. Trump fits an historical pattern of democratically elected leaders who seek to concentrate power in an undemocratic way. Moreover, as I indicated, I have been aware of Trump probably 20+ years before he became president. I have made strong statements, but I have also supplied numerous examples before and after 2016. The most recent NYTimes report on his financial dealings in the 1990’s is just another example. You are free to support him; just be clear about who it is you are supporting.
Strong opinions – yours or mine – are not inflammatory or personal attacks, unless we choose to interpret them in that way. Challenging what you think or believe is not the same as demeaning you or those who share your opinions. On or off line – when you have time and emotional space, I would love to hear your view of the character issues I raise about the President.
Drick, I have one very important question for. Are you for or against abortion? A simple answer is all I need.
Drick, I find it telling that the one person you do not apply the “all have sinned” standard to is… Christine Blasey Ford. The “I believe her” movement apparently granted wholesale and unlimited credibility to female accusers (where were they when Bill Clinton was being accused huh?), as if they never lie or are mistaken. I’m not saying that Ford intentionally lied (like at least one of his other accusers), although her online comments about needing to find an accuser for Kavanaugh’s confirmation process are interesting, but rather that memory is undeniably and demonstrably FAULTY. The most impassioned, sincere eyewitness may be simply remembering wrong. For the cognitive psych background, listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast, ‘Free Brian Williams;’ toward the end he links faulty memory to sexual assault allegations. While the jury is still out for me, I believe that Blasey Ford was sexually assaulted by someone at some point, but suspect that her memory has been corrupted. Sadly, in Kavanaugh/Ford’s case, people simply wound up supporting whichever narrative best fit their prior political leanings.
Andy – I must admit I had to go back and read this blog to understand your question. My belief in Dr. Blasey-Ford’s testimony was not part of “I believe her”movement but a reaction to her testimony. My impression of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was based on what I watched. As I said: I wonder what he was hiding. In any case that was not the point of this blog but rather to point out the impact of our actions years after they occurred. We are not seeing this same scenario being played out in Virginia. Our words, our actions matter now and in the future. That is all I was trying to say.