Kavanaugh is the poster child for the perils of politicizing pain

When my teenage son came home from school today, he announced that his History class was doing something that most high school or college level courses don’t do. They are reading the Declaration of Independence. After his complaints about wading through the archaic writing style, he started asking me about the old Greek triumvirate of persuasive speech and writing – Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. It was fitting, even though it was an untimely interruption during the Senate Judiciary Hearing on Brett Kavanaugh.

I quickly applied the definitions to the situation on the screen, explaining to my son that these hearings should be focused on Ethos, or the character of especially Kavanaugh, since he’s being considered for the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Pathos, or the emotional arguments, have been ruling the day, primarily because there is a lack of Logos, or logic and reason being applied. It’s an extremely abbreviated lesson for not only the classical Greek forms of persuasion, but also these hearings.

This morning was devoted to the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and unsurprisingly I was asked by at least a few people what I thought about it. The writers who were asking were also aware of the fact that I had been raped when I was in college, and they wanted that insight. I know they weren’t pleased when I admitted that I mostly believed Ford’s testimony, but the key word is “mostly.” The fact is that I believe Ford described a real attack she suffered at some point in her life. The questionable part is in the important details of when, where, and by whom. From my own experience, there are times (including now) when I honestly couldn’t tell someone the name of my rapist, even though I had dated him. My mind simply won’t pull that information up. It’s been many years since I could draw his face up in my mind, too. What happened remains a part of the pile of situations that drift through my mind as nightmares, so I doubt I will ever forget it. It has been nearly 30 years since I was raped, and the details have blessedly become progressively more fuzzy over the years. I do have moments when it all returns as though it happened yesterday, but even those are becoming more rare.

When I watched Ford testify today, I looked for what I’ve seen in myself, and I saw the same patterns of forgetfulness and recall. That is why I said she was believable in at least some of her testimony, but that was primarily included in her initial statement when she recounted what happened to her. My disbelief about the all important detail of who did it is rooted not only in what I saw and heard from Ford herself, but also in the fact that there doesn’t appear to be anyone willing to corroborate her story. Yes, she did say she was absolutely sure about who attacked her, but I couldn’t help wondering if she was trying to convince herself just as much as anyone else in the room. That feeling was amplified as it became clear that no one else, including her close friend, was willing to attest to Ford’s account, even by simply admitting they had been present.

In the break between Ford and Kavanaugh, social media was littered with comments about Ford’s inability to answer questions about things that happened recently. Of course, that was the direct result of partisan politicking and a complete lack of empathy. It is difficult to understand why anyone would expect her to be anything but suffering from extreme stress, which definitely can cause short-term memory problems. Ford has been subjected to a severe level of venom online, has been forced to practically hide from media, and has been receiving threats on her life and well-being. It’s easy to understand why she would be generally disoriented, and have problems remembering what she’s been doing since she was thrust into the spotlight.

Kavanaugh took his seat at the table, and started out furious – rightfully so. He arguably has been the target of a political hatchet job, if one agrees with Senator Orrin Hatch’s assessment of the situation. Hatch pointed out through his questions to Kavanaugh that Ford’s – and several other – allegations had been sprung on Kavanaugh primarily by the media. He had no advance warning from the members of the Judiciary Committee who knew about the allegations in advance. Hatch at least implied it was a political hit job, and he would be right.

We have become accustomed to hyper-partisan politicking, but now it has moved on to exploiting victims of sex crimes, and destroying reputations without the benefit of fair warning, let alone due process. Kavanaugh’s reputation, no matter what happens next, will probably never be recovered. Ford might be remembered as a heroine for sexual assault victims, but she may also go down in infamy as just another political pawn. Either way, it is politicizing the infliction of pain. If anyone thinks it’s an intelligent way to wage political war, they are definitely mistaken. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can accurately predict how voters will interpret all of this in November, or any other election. Democrats cannot rely on support, because while they think they are promoting women in these proceedings, they aren’t. They are only promoting the recent cause which is being used to drive divisions between men and women – #MeToo. It is a movement that encourages destruction of our justice system, including particularly due process, and the presumption of innocence. Additionally, the movement has created an atmosphere of animosity toward men that has the potential to not only turn men away from a party, but also women with sons.

At the end of the day, there were two victims in the Judiciary Committee hearings today – Ford and Kavanaugh. The only question is “who is truly guilty of exploitation?” Based on what I had seen from both sides, I have to say the guilty parties sit in our Senate. If I’m brutally honest, I would expand that to include the media gallery, and across our entire nation, because as Americans with a seemingly endless appetite for the salacious and sadistic, we are all guilty of encouraging this reprehensible kind of politicking.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023