On Thursday, September 27, 2018, America was glued to their screens.
Both Dr. Ford and Brett Cavanaugh were testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. People watched in restaurants and bars, on their phones, and even on airplanes.
That evening, I did what most people do: logged on to the modern-day watercooler, social media. There, I saw one of my old high school classmates had dropped a status with his opinion on Facebook.
(Quick side note: I spent my junior and senior high school years in a small town in Wisconsin. Every election cycle, the phrase “Small town values” is bellowed like Whitman’s barbaric yawp. In reality, small town generally means small minds. Not always, but more often than not. I’m not saying this to describe my friend, but more to describe the atmosphere we were raised in.)
My friend suggested the day had changed nothing for anyone; everything still boiled down to he said, she said.
Observing temperament and believability, from what I saw only one of the two people testifying seemed to be leaning toward truth.
This set off a… let’s call it a “mildly spirited” discussion. I knew I was picking a fight, and a fight I got. Quite a few of our classmates started piling on, because if there’s one thing we all have, it’s an opinion.
Since everyone knew everyone, the discussion was unlike the comments section of your average online news article, and (mostly) civil. But I was easily outnumbered, and by that I mean I was standing alone.
Everyone was team Kavanaugh except me. Which was fine; it’s what I expected.
At the end, things got as boring as any online argument and everything petered out. No one changed anyone’s mind.
Then Friday rolled around, and several things happened.
First, the official magazine of the Jesuits in the United States withdrew its endorsement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. They now believed his name should be removed from Supreme Court consideration.
(If you’re unaware, Pope Francis is a Jesuit. For that organization to withdraw its endorsement is huge.)
Second, the online presence Vox posted a color coded, side-by-side diagram of each testimony. If a line was marked in blue, it meant the speaker had tried to answer a direct question. If a line was marked in red, it meant the speaker avoided answering a direct question.
Dr. Ford’s side was a sea of blue; Brett Kavanaugh’s side was awash in red.
But even more important to me than the Jesuits or Vox was a one-two punch that really brought things home for me.
I read an article describing the type of person who responded to Kavanaugh’s combative testimony. Contained within was a statistic showing that educated people tended to believe Ford, while less educated people sided with Kavanaugh.
And then, in a beautiful moment of wonderful timing, after reading that article I started getting Facebook notifications. Another old classmate, someone who wasn’t part of the initial “he said/she said” conversation, showed up and started “liking” all comments that defended Kavanaugh.
This person is someone that has multiple arrests on their record (domestic violence included), and has vocalized the following beliefs: first responders earn too much and should only be paid minimum wage. Chemtrails are real. Vaccinations cause autism. Rape victims shouldn’t have been dressed the way they were or had as much to drink as they did at the time of attack.
I cannot tell a lie—seeing that person pop up in opposition to my stance made me smile. It cemented my belief I was on the correct side of things.
It also made me wonder what the classmates who had been arguing with me thought of their new supporter. What goes through your mind when someone like that is on your side? What sort of moral and mental gymnastics do you have to do to justify your position?
“Well, sure that person is a domestic abuser who said ‘the confederate flag is about heritage, not slavery, and that anyone trying to remove statues of Southern Civil War generals are no different than what ISIS does when they destroy historical artifacts in Iraq and Syria…’ but they’re dead on when it comes to Kavanaugh!”
(That’s like saying, “Well, Hitler was a little too into genocide, but I appreciate his paintings.” And yes, the “confederate flag is about heritage” is another belief my former classmate holds.)
We live in a divided age, where things that are gray are supposed to be black or white. Where we don’t see nuance or humanity, we see absolutes. It’s not a fun time, and it doesn’t help anyone.
I say that because I know that many of my friends who support Kavanaugh aren’t knuckle-dragging, misogynistic Neanderthals.
They were raised in a certain environment, and now receive their “news” from specific sources designed to reinforce beliefs, not shed light.
I would, however, like them to take a look at the people around them; the others on their side. Hopefully what they see will give them pause, and make them rethink their current perceptions. When we look in a mirror, we can convince ourselves we are moral people. When we look around, the truth of who we are is revealed.
Looking around and seeing who we stand with, and who stands with us, is something we should all do.
If we don’t, one day we could wake up and find that we’re surrounded by assholes.
Post Script: After writing this, pedophile Roy Moore threw his support behind Kavanaugh. I don’t think I need to explain the significance of that.
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