My best friend in High School was one of the smartest kids in school. I always wondered why his intellectual ambition didn’t match up with his intellectual ability. A few years later he mentioned that he had always been interested in science, and very good at it when he was a child. Then his older brother, in passing, made fun of kids that were good at science. My friend, very self-conscious and the quietest of a large family, stopped being good at science.
In my early twenties, I was talking with some friends, including a slightly older woman who was a technical writer. Out of the blue she said that I would be good at technical writing and should try it. I did and I was, and have made a career out of helping other people organize their thoughts and their numbers.
Life is full of tiny, passing moments like these, that one person probably doesn’t remember but the other person carries with them, sometimes forever. A passing comment from a brother. A random suggestion from someone a little bit older.
Who knows why some words resonate, why some events barely register for one participant, but are life changing for another participant?
What happened between Christine Ford and Brett Kavanaugh seems like one of those events. Something that had a lifelong, almost tragic impact on Ford. Something that barely registered for an inebriated Brett Kavanaugh. He can’t remember an attempted rape because, well, he’s not a rapist, and pretty much everything about the rest of his life suggests he is respectful of women. When Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge saw that Ford was starting to panic, Judge jumped on Kavanaugh to bring it to an end. They went back down to the party and Ford was still there. Kavanaugh might have had a passing idea that she thought of him as a jerk, and that was it.
I always wondered if my best friend’s older brother ever realized the impact his passing comment had on his younger brother. Probably not. We all do things that have impact far beyond our intent or even our realization.
How guilty should my friend’s older brother feel about changing the course of his younger brother’s life? How guilty should Kavanaugh feel for the impact he had on Ford’s life? Should that one event, 35 years ago, be enough to deny Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court?
It’s hard not to be frustrated with the Democrats. If this had come up a month ago, maybe Kavanaugh would have responded differently. Maybe he would have said I would never hurt a woman and I don’t remember this event, but can’t say for sure it didn’t happen when we were drinking. He might have even apologized for the trauma he had caused Ford. He seems like the kind of guy who would have done that, a human who sometimes feels remorse for his actions and learns from them. Everything about his life makes him seem like a nice guy.
But maybe the extra month wouldn’t have mattered. We have a President who’s done quite well for himself by never apologizing for anything, who instead denies and attacks. We live in a time when the old Christian idea of confessing your sins and making amends is out of favor.
At this point, it probably doesn’t matter. Kavanaugh didn’t take the route of saying he didn’t remember it but it might have happened while he was drinking. Instead he went down the path of telling small lie after small lie to sanitize his youth. Denying he drank a lot. Denying that he would have ever met Ford. Denying that he said cruel things about a girl at another school. Denying that he sometimes vomited after drinking. Maybe the Democrats made him do it, but basically he denied ever having been a teenager.
If Kavanaugh doesn’t get confirmed, this will be why. What happened 35 years ago could be viewed as a tragic misunderstanding, the inebriated fumblings of a teenager. But how he responded when testifying under oath, with a cascade of small lies, can’t help but make people wonder if he is someone who belongs on our Supreme Court.