Friday, October 5, 2018

Not all is forgiven

"Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice."

In light of the hearings on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil asked me if I thought someone should be held responsible for his or her actions as a teenager that took place thirty some years earlier.

It's not a no-brainer.

On the whole, I don't think the elapse of time makes criminal actions any less criminal.

While I do think people deserve forgiveness for many stupid things that they did when they were 17 years old, I don't think assault falls under that umbrella.

If I drank too much and had inappropriate but consensual sex, that is forgivable. The person I harmed was myself. Of course, I am female. I don't think there is a true equivalent for taking advantage of a man who was so intoxicated that he wasn't fit to consent. I don't think a woman can rape a man who has passed out. There are simply anatomical dissimilarities that make a valid comparison impossible.

So let's go with another analogy. If I drank too much and got in my car and caused a fatality accident, is that forgivable? Here we start down a slippery slope. Was it the first and only time I drove while intoxicated? Did I ever do it again? Should the rest of my life be forfeit or should I be able to chalk it up to the bad judgment of youth and move on past it to live my life?

What if I drank too much and got in my car and somehow by the grace of the universe, I got home safely? What if I did this many, many times, and just was lucky enough to avoid tragic consequences? Is that any more or less forgivable?

If you think I have the answers, you've come to the wrong blog.

The Kavanaugh confirmation waters are further muddied by his denial of the the claim by Christine Ford that, at a party in the early '80s, when he was 17 and she was 15, he tried to force himself on her sexually. Did it happen or did it not? It's a classic "he said, she said," but as a woman, I'm more inclined to believe her story. That's because it's a familiar story.

I'm fortunate that it didn't happen to me, but too many women I know were raped or otherwise sexually compromised during that time frame, in similar situations, where alcohol impaired judgment and unfair advantage was taken. And these women kept these atrocities secret for decades, from guilt and shame, or because they knew they wouldn't be believed, or worse, they'd be blamed. Why were they at that party, why did they dress that way, why did they drink too much, how could they put themselves in that situation?

It's only after the years pass, when we are mature, when we've grown into confidence or just don't give a damn any more, that we finally empower ourselves to speak of these evils, to name those names, and to feel only righteous anger, without shame.

I have a friend who in her youth posed nude for pictures. She has lived in fear throughout her corporate career that these pictures will materialize to humiliate her. She has now broken her silence about it and so taken away some of the threat to being outed.

Yes, I'm sure we've all made mistakes, we've done things that we regret, we've wished for do-overs, and hopefully we've learned some lessons along the way. And certainly we are entitled to forgiveness for those regrettable mistakes.

Maybe we've even raised our hands and lashed out in anger. Maybe we've pushed and shoved and thrown things. Perhaps we've let our tempers get out of control. I myself have two deliberately broken windows to my credit.

I also once smacked my daughter. For this I will always feel deeply remorseful and repentant. There are better ways to deal with anger, however justified.

But assault? Sexual assault?

I'm not here to say that it's unforgivable. That power is not mine. Let she who has not sinned be the judge.

But I'll go out on a limb here. What may be forgivable in the ordinary course of things, especially if done by a minor, especially if many years have passed, especially if the person has lived an exemplary life in the intervening years and would condemn such behavior in retrospect, may be held up to a higher standard if the person responsible is under consideration for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

It's a big country with a lot of people in it. There are numerous qualified individuals with no stain on their character. It's my considered opinion that any such person must have an untarnished lifelong slate.

So even if Kavanaugh has no recollection of the event, if he so much as remembers being in a situation where the alleged assault could have happened (i.e., intoxicated, with raging hormones, and the slightest attitude of male entitlement, or disrespect of woman) then he should acknowledge he is not the ideal candidate and disqualify himself.

If he truly values his reputation and his family's privacy and well-being, as he claims, well then step out of the fucking limelight, because there are more ways to do good and redeem yourself than by serving as a Supreme Court justice.

Let someone else have that honor.

Especially if you don't have the temperament to maintain your composure, if you choose to play the victim card, and if you generally fail to comport yourself with the dignity, objectivity, respectfulness, and grace under pressure that are essential elements of sitting on the bench of the court of last appeal.

Case dismissed.

I wish.

Lately I’ve been walking all alone through the wind and through the rain
I’ve been walking through the streets and finding sweet relief in knowing that it won’t be long

Lately it’s occurred to me that I’ve had enough of all that
Lately I’ve been satisfied by simple things like breathing in and breathing out

Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice

Lately it’s occurred to me exactly what went wrong
I realized I compromised, I sacrificed far too much for far too long

Starting out from here today swear I’m gonna change my ways
Once mistaken in this life but never twice

Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice.

(Natalie Merchant, Indian Love Bride ©2001)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz