Monday, December 10, 2018

Ford and Kavanaugh

I started writing on this blog eons ago, and named it according to my premonition that our shared narrative would have to change. A shared narrative is the designed result of the scientific method, and it has been my conviction for the whole of my adult life that this brave new shared narrative infused by science came a cropper at about the time that quantum physics went mainstream.

I remember the terror of being out in public, naked. I've since learned, of course, that no-one is paying any attention. I write with some abandon, and then, well, it just doesn't seem worth it anymore.

My problem remains simple; that I don't have anything complete to say. I'm still in process, and unfortunately I'm getting a little old for that posture. But I'm not finished yet.

Like many of us, I did struggle a bit to find some truth in the stated positions and memories of Ford and Kavanaugh these last few days. Does the world really remain so naive about the fallibility of memory? I know that each time I pronounce some amazing happenstance in my life past and present, I am called out for a fraud. Some of the time I'm embarrassed to find they're right. I did exaggerate, or substitute or conflate for the sake of interest mostly. Perhaps sometimes to make myself look better, and sometimes to prevent looking so bad.

As any newspaper person would tell you, the story matters more than the truth. Anyone who's ever been interviewed for a story knows that very well.

But we also know very well that traumatic or otherwise emotionally stimulating memories are the ones that remain the most accurate over time.

However easy it might be for me to imagine that Ford swapped in Kavanaugh for someone else, it is that hard for me to imagine that she did not suffer what she said she did. A famous person, and a person who represents detested values, would make the trauma more real. And I think reality is important for anyone who suffers something that won't be believed, or will be belittled, or which causes more pain in the revelation than the pain caused by keeping silent. The relativity of pain doesn't make it disappear.

It's just as easy for me to imagine that Kavanaugh has cleansed his mind of those things which might make him too distasteful to those who admire him, which apparently includes himself. For me, it is sufficient to know that he has never repudiated the Church, and that he still apparently identifies with it.

I grew up in what was once the most Catholic city on the planet (according to the Buffalo News, once upon a time), and nearly all my Catholic friends have repudiated their faith in favor of something more in process. At the church I grew up in, we called that "More Light," as in mankind cannot yet know God's mind, and that we should, in the interim, behave in ways most compassionate and least certain. The particular issue at the time was homosexuality in the pulpit, but it could apply in endless different ways.

My lapsed Catholic friends are angry with the institution of the Church for having failed to protect those most innocent among us - children - from the most culpable possible perpetrators; exponents of God's word.

So, in the end, my problem with Kavanaugh is that he seems to believe that he is called upon to be and to have been perfect. My problem is that he seems to want us to see him as better than he is.

He doesn't seem like a particularly bad person, but he does seem to have jettisoned any desire to be better. By repudiating his own past as though not only didn't it happen, but that had it happened he could not be as good a man as he claims to be. In doing that, he pretty much validates the notion that he should be accountable now for what he did then, as though he were finished at 17, with no more room to grow.

At best, he wants his sins to remain secret and private. At worst, he doesn't believe in any kind of aspirational identity. There is but one model, and there is but one chance to fit it. Character for him, seems to be determined at or by birth. Somehow, no-one encouraged him to own up to his shortcomings and to try to make them better.

How could he not apply the same standards in a court of law? He must believe that there is one set mode for being good, and that people are either bad or good. Evidently, he would consider being female and being gay lapses from the good. I think that's why he's being put forward.

So, I may be disagreeing with his opposition in a way. They seem bent on uncovering the truth in exactly the same way that he is. He's already told plenty of what Catholics call 'white lies,' to keep his image from straying in the direction of boorish. Those are documented.

The truth which wants exposure is not whether he was or wasn't the guilty party for Ford's abuse. The truth which wants exposure, and the one against which he has already been proven guilty, is whether or not he feels that he was finished before he even started. If, in other words, he feels that there is nothing more for him to learn, and no improvements to be made in his own behavior, then he should be disqualified, no matter his convictions, political or otherwise.

That may make me an unreconstructed progressive liberal, who would nix the validity of any and all conservatives. Neither woman not black, I can hear the sexism and racism in every statement he makes. Attacks against character are not the moral equivalent of rape. Especially when they are proven, as they already have been in this case.

We are informed by our tools, starting, perhaps, with language. The informed mind cannot be as it was. When we stop being informed, we are, rightly, called tools. It has been a mistake to suppose that we could remain separate from the tools we create, and a bigger one to suppose that our tools beyond language don't inform us in the same way.

As approximately half the world understands, Kavanaugh is a tool. He is some kind of victim only against his apparently fiercely defended right to hold whatever lofty position he aspires to. Even as he fails to own up to character flaws, he would like the rest of us to accept his choir boy definition of decency. That brand of decency is incapable of any perspective on the patriarchy of religion and any notion that women aren't the playthings of men.

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