Friday, September 28, 2018

Trigger Warnings

In advance, I am not at all surprised by what will be the likely outcome of today's vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That hearing yesterday was the hottest messiest nastiest boo shay to occur in recent time that was not a scripted drama or a reality show.

I am not old enough to remember Watergate, and certainly was not around during the Civil War (and I invoke those two historic events to mark other highly divisive points in our history). But I was a college student when Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas, and recall quite vividly how divisive and painful that experience was. If I can take you back 27 years, I was on a black college campus in Georgia, situated next door to another black college campus and between the two, public sentiment was already divided over several other issues, namely the Mike Tyson rape trial. I won't fully revisit that incident at this time, but recalling how that impacted us in addition to the confirmation hearings, I can only tell you how it isn't surprising to find ourselves back here again.

I might be all over the place with this, but yesterday was triggering for me and I am clear that I was not alone. In fact, I KNOW that there were many others who found themselves moved by the mere presence of Christine Blasey Ford at that hearing yesterday. I am not going to weigh in on the issue of her credibility because people with far more experience have that duty at present, but I will say that it struck a nerve.

Anyone who is inclined to wonder why victims do not come forward need only to replay some of the theatrics from yesterday. Begin with the fact that there was an obvious imbalance on one side of the aisle that required a face-saving strategy that backfired. You know what would have been more effective? Having women on the committee from your party in the first place. You know what else would have been helpful? Not proceeding with the farce of hiring a female prosecutor if you were so concerned about public humiliation.

Let's also address the opening statement that set the tone (which was later re-emphasized during the second half of the hearing when everyone felt less inhibited). You can argue that there were partisan shenanigans taking place behind the scenes, but please don't argue that it was one-sided. And please don't suggest that the elapse of time between the initial accusation and it becoming public was part of some intentionally political ploy. The witness stated that it was her CHOICE not to go public until she was forced to do so. If anyone had truly been listening to how she reached her decision to come forward, it doesn't follow that the people whom she trusted to protect her identity would turn around and exploit her with her permission. Seriously, think about that.

And just as a side note, this is deja vu all over again with respect to Anita Hill...she came forward after she learned that she was going to be outed by the media as an accuser. Who has more to gain by releasing an anonymous allegation? (And before anyone argues that the media has some angle here, need I remind you that the identity of Deep Throat was a secret for decades and we still don't know who wrote that internal resistence NYT op-ed from a few weeks ago.)

Then there is the matter of the response. Again, no assessment of credibility because that is someone else's job, but the issue put before the people is character. And the atmosphere of the entire proceeding changed dramatically, especially when the idea that this might be some kind of revenge of the Clintons...and I'm just going to leave that there. I have nothing but sympathy for Brett Kavanaugh's family because NO ONE should have to endure having their personal life micro-analyzed for the sake of a job. There were folks who jumped to the most extreme conclusions about him within minutes after his name was announced, so of course he regards this as a vast conspiracy. How else should he?

Perhaps the real trigger was the build up of this entire week. There was the Cosby sentencing and reaction. There was the reappearance of Michael Avenatti with additional allegations made against this nominee. In the past two weeks, there were allegations made against another very powerful man in Hollywood that resulted in another public fall from grace. There is our President and his inability to control the sexist impulses that rage within him. And there is social media.

In two separate and unrelated incidences over the last 24 hours, I have witnessed how social media can be both a force for good and for evil. I am very clear that yesterday caused a lot of anguish and anxiety for far more people than anyone realizes. Anyone who believes that incidences involving sexual abuse are simple matters is foolhardy. Anyone who assumes that there is a clear cut choice with respect to reporting these matters is intentionally insensitive. Anyone who thinks that the end result of this entire spectacle is something other than a disaster is mean-spirited and heartless.

And that's all I can manage right now, because there is still so much happening and I need to be able to process in order to move onto the next thing. I don't want to diminish this moment by saying anything trite or predictable, but I am praying for everyone who has found coping with life difficult this past week. I won't offer any useless advice or virtual hugs, but just know that you are not alone.

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