Content warnings for Kavanaugh; sexual assault
There are people for whom this week has been absolutely unbearable, and a significant number of them are survivors of sexual assault. This week, this month, several years, have all been very, very bad for many people. The news has broken on Weinstein and Affleck and Cosby and C.K. and priests and doctors and coaches and while none of it has been much of a surprise, it has been constant and it has been loud and it has been nearly impossible to avoid. I needed to walk through news teams on Tuesday to get to a hearing across the street from the Cosby sentencing, and people are still arguing that he’s too old to be a threat and that taxpayers’ money was wasted on the retrial.
Despite living near or on top of a lot of garbage, I’ve still had the ability to check in and out of many of these discussions. I’m “online” for much of my life, so I hear about news as it breaks, but I have the ability to shut off a phone, stop checking Twitter, and rest. I’ve taken that opportunity many times recently, but I’ve had such difficulty doing so with the potential confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
At first glance, it’s a bit odd that this story is what hurts right now: it’s certainly not the worst we’ve heard or the most callous or the most violent. It could be that this is hitting me especially hard because Kennedy resigned during a Trump presidency, which was a blow I hadn’t expected. It could be that Kavanaugh has been open and proud about his Catholicism in a way that makes me uncomfortable. It could be that I was (still am?) a student who legitimately spent all her time focused on being number one in her class and at church and doing service projects and all the other brown-nosing geek shit Kavanaugh talked about in his interview. It could be because I’m female, or a lawyer, or a Christian, or young, or mentally ill. But I am absolutely exhausted and I am absolutely enraged and I am absolutely finished with this.
Everyone: you don’t get to brush off something simply because it happened when a man was 17, or because “boys will be boys.” I want to tear my hair out when people say “okay, he says he didn’t do it, but if he did, I mean, do we punish him forever for being a 17-year-old boy? I’d hate if my sons had to worry about something like this!” You know what? That makes you a horrendous parent. Your boys should be worried. I want them to worry. I want them to monitor their own behavior to such a degree that I can talk to teenagers and college students in the future and know that they haven’t been hurt, because that isn’t something I can do with my mentors or my contemporaries. I want you to teach them that boys will absolutely not be boys, they will be held accountable for their actions, and you had better fucking be a part of that accountability. I don’t want them scared, but I’d like them to carry a bit of the worry that women and other genders have been carrying around for all of written history.
And if you start throwing around “what happened to innocent until proven guilty?” like it means something, you need to stop. These hearings are a job interview, not a court. Kindly, kindly, stop fucking throwing around legal terms like I just dicked around for three years and two bar exams and couldn’t possibly know more than you do because you’ve studied this. Brett Kavanaugh is not going to jail. The worst case scenario for Brett Kavanaugh is that he goes back to his lifetime appointment (which took several years to push through, just FYI, because people were worried he wouldn’t be fair) and hangs out with his family and throws dinner parties for all those people who signed that letter. He is not owed this. No one is owed a Supreme Court seat. I’m thrilled that these accusations are seeing the light of day, but it is a faint shadow of accountability at best. Lindsey Graham stating that he is a lawyer, and he doesn’t understand when we got rid of “innocent until proven guilty” both 1. indicates to me that he’s an atrocious lawyer who missed out on minute one of day one of criminal law and 2. makes my blood pressure soar to the stars.
And watching Kavanaugh throw around complete ignorance that parties were going on with alcohol and assault is horrifically insulting. This man, who was once a white boy in an ultra-rich all-boys’ prep school outside of D.C., sat in a chair and was filmed for television and vehemently said that he had no idea that his compatriots might not have been absolute choirboys at all times. Sir, you covered your ears and wore horse blinders for 4 years, or you are unintelligent to a degree that should disqualify you from our highest court, or you are baldly lying to us. I was a nerd. I was a Girl Scout. I went to Mass every Sunday. I did all that school shit you talk about, and the service shit, and the extra-curriculars shit. And I still managed to hear, occasionally, that some of my classmates were slightly less than angels. Fuck you. Rich white boys can hurt people too. Don’t you dare explain yourself to us with “but I was a very busy virginal basketball player.” You’re lying, and you’re mocking us, and you got to Yale and continued doing your privileged boat-shoe-navy-blazer-old-money-prep-school entitled bullshit through right now.
And watching Kavanaugh throw out his virginity as some kind of obvious halo is both uncomfortable and irrelevant to a degree that it’s actually weaponized. Are you implying that you couldn’t have hurt a woman because you’re a virgin? Because neither of the accusations against you involve your having penetrative sex with a woman, so I really don’t know why you’d mention that. Or are you saying that because you are a virgin, you are a well-behaved, slightly awkward young man who was Good because he was not someone who managed to touch women? Oh, okay. You were a virgin in high school and many years after? That fact is of relevance, possibly, to any sex partners you have and wish to disclose it to, end of list. We do not care about the consensual sex you have had. If you’re going to use its absence as some form of virtue beacon along with the fact that you coach girls’ fucking basketball, I’m going to have to argue that you don’t understand what virtue is. But no, please, continue listing the times you’ve had sex, and the women you’ve spoken to, and how you have best friends who are sexual assault survivors. We won’t object on relevance grounds, because, as we said, this isn’t a court proceeding, it’s a job interview.
And then there’s the stuff that is the small knives below Kavanaugh’s smothering presence of privilege, and I don’t know who to talk to about them, so I’m writing them here. I’m a woman, and I’m a lawyer, and I’m a survivor, but this man, these men, these supposed leaders, arguing that they are in fact virtuous, that they’ve got Christianity on lock and are living it truthfully, that’s the little knives in my side. My belief in God is my baseline, it’s my grounding, and it’s my frayed fucking rope to cling to when my own mind is telling me that everyone close to me would be better off if I were gone. I mess up all the time, and forget how I should act, and what I need to do, but it’s always there. And as much as God is personal for me, He’s just as important to how I interact with the world. God loves me, and He also loves everyone, always, regardless of what good they’ve done or haven’t done, or how the world has hurt them, or how their own mind has hurt them, or how they’ve fought, or how they’ve given up, or how they don’t work or contribute or produce or some other horrible mechanized quality we’ve attributed to souls.
I’ve given my life to Christ, and in doing so, I hope I’ve given it to His people as well. I am so incredibly far from perfect, and He loves me anyway, and I am going to struggle every single day about whether I’m doing right by Him and right by those he loves. And He loves everyone. God’s grace looks like “you matter,” and while I’m far from a Bible scholar, I genuinely don’t know how you can read the same book and land anywhere else.
As a woman and a lawyer and a survivor and a 30-year-old, at least I get to look at Kavanaugh, at Pence, at Sessions, and be comforted by the fact that no one could look at me and think we are the same. But they have my God’s name in their mouths when they talk and when they work and when they lie and when they lock children in cages.
They talk about their rules around meeting one-on-one with women like it’s a direct elevator to heaven rather than an infantilizing and arbitrary practice that hinges on a man’s inability to not be warm breathing garbage for two hours at a time.
They use Paul’s letter to the Romans, from my book, from my faith, from my God, to argue that it is moral and good and holy to separate children from their parents at our borders, like Jesus didn’t stare us all in the face and say “when the end times come my Father is going to ask you if you loved these souls, whom I love as greatly as I love you.” You misused that quotation from Romans, you misused your power, and you are standing up in front of this country after teaching Sunday school and saying “I am doing what God thinks is right” when you yank children away from their mothers and fathers for no reason other than abject cruelty. They were strangers, and you caged them.
They throw around their virginity like it staples a halo to their head while refusing to embrace humility and prayer and back down from trying to obtain the glory of a Supreme Court seat to apologize to a wife and daughters and women in general. They say things like “going to church was like brushing my teeth” to demonstrate how virtuous they are. They morph into full-on rage when, for the first time in their lives, they are questioned about their actions and motives. They look for proof of their good actions, passing them up as evidence that they could never, would never, behave in any way other than perfect, despite attending a church every Sunday whose fundamental tenet is that we are flawed and God loves us anyway.
Did you listen, Judge Kavanaugh? For all that church you went to, did you hear any of it? Do you remember when our Savior tells us to pray, to do it in secret, and not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets so that they may be seen by men? Do you remember when our Savior told us that we are to turn the other cheek, and to go two miles when asked to go one, and to give our cloak to those who take our shirt? When you speak of your daughter wanting to pray for Dr. Ford as some kind of novelty, do you not recall how our Savior told us to turn the world on its head and love our enemies, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? If you spent so much time in the pews, Judge Kavanaugh, why do you become enraged over what you consider false accusations, for you must know that our Father in heaven sees what we do in private? Did you not listen when you were instructed that Jesus loves us, that He died for us, and we do not deserve his sacrifice, but He made it anyway? Why are you speaking of what you deserve, what you are owed, what hasn’t been given to you, when you know that you have the Lord, and you know better than to lay up your treasures on Earth rather than in heaven, for there lies your heart? Why are you so focused on the specks in your brothers’ eyes when you know you should be looking for the plank in your own? How could you have spent so much time kneeling, so much time praying, so much time thanking the same God I pray to, and not hear that at the end, we will be examined for what we did for the hungry and the thirsty and the imprisoned and the sick and if we did not minister to them, we did not minister to Him? If attending church, if spending time in a building designed to honor Him, was as natural and common to you as brushing your teeth, how can forgiveness not have seeped into your bones so deep that forgiving seven times seventy times is natural? If you have met God, if you have asked Him to save you, if you have agreed to do as He commands, if you acknowledge Him as your rescuer, if you worship at the sacrifice of Jesus, if you see what His all-encompassing love means, if you read His book and know His story and weep at His goodness and praise Him for his sacrifice and do what He asks of you not to earn heaven because none of us can earn heaven but only to be a mirror of Him on Earth until He returns because God is good, God is so good and you will gladly work your entire life to become the barest sliver of His unending devotion… how can you be like this?
Did you listen, Judge Kavanaugh? Listen now. Listen for God. I pray that you may open your ears and your mind and hear what He is saying to you. I pray for you to seek humility. I pray for your family, for your daughters and your wife. I pray for your peace. I pray for your healing. And above all, I pray that you may hear Him, because I am not confident that you’ve gotten to hear Him yet, and that breaks my heart. Because for a man who claims to know God so well that belief is natural, that it is second-nature, I genuinely don’t understand what God you think you know, and oh my word, you need to meet Him.