It was a bit like watching a train wreck, or a really bad reality TV show – you know you shouldn’t and you know it’s a waste of time – but somehow you continue. What am I talking about? The reality TV show that is the American Senates hearing into the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
Dr Christine Blasey Ford has accused the potential Supreme Court Judge of sexually assaulting her when he was a 17-year-old at a drunken party 35 years ago. She appeared before the Senate Judicial Committee last week, as did Kavanaugh.
It made for great TV drama and theatre – and was incredibly revealing of just how much trouble America is in. This was trial by media with the jury deciding on the basis of their politics and who was the best actor. The facts are really difficult to ascertain but let me offer the following as certain.
1. We don’t know
Watching the event on Facebook, it was fascinating to see how many people just knew who was lying and who was guilty. In today’s world we are all experts who know the truth. “She was believable and came across well. She was clearly not lying and was upset. This is how victims behave” . “Her body language was not that of a victim, she came across too calmly. She is a psychology professor and knows how to manipulate ”. “He was an angry middle-aged man, behaving as an abuser would”. “He was believable and clearly upset at the injustice being done to him”. It was not surprising to get this kind of certainty on social media, what disturbed me profoundly was watching journalists and politicians writing and speaking as if they knew. I refuse to be drawn into that trap. I don’t know. And neither does anyone else – apart from a very few direct participants.
Some of us claim we know because of our perception and feeling of who was telling the truth. The trouble with this is that justice then boils down to who is the best actor, as none of us can read another’s heart. Only God is omniscient.
I can think of several occasions when I have listened to people make claims, or deny them, with such passion, sincerity and believability that I would have totally accepted them, if I did not have the evidence sitting right in front of me. The ability of the human being to lie is second to none. The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. One of these people is lying – and I have no idea which one. I have been involved in a couple of cases – one where I felt the person was guilty but did not know and the other where I felt they were innocent but then the evidence came to light and they were found to be guilty.
I can have views based upon my perception, but I cannot let my feelings be the judge of what is real and true. And neither should anyone else. We don’t know. Feeling is not knowledge.
We should learn to trust that there will come a day of Judgement when God will right all wrongs. The fact that there is such a day coming is one of profound significance for our behaviour and actions today. We are not omniscient but God is. We are not the ultimate judge. He is. Brett Kavanaugh swore before God that he was not at that party and did not commit that assault. One day he will meet the God whose name he took on his lips to proclaim he was innocent of this charge. I hope for his sake he was telling the truth.
After writing this I came across the following in the Christian Post from Napp Nazworth: "In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics (2012), social psychologist Jonathan Haidt pointed out that our inherent tribal instincts lead us to follow our intuitions before our reasoning, and our reasoning, more often than not, is used to justify our intuitions. This is why we tend to agree with those in our 'tribe' and have difficulty emphathizing with those in other tribes, which also explains why liberals can so easily reject Kavanaugh’s denials while accepting Bill Clinton’s (or Keith Ellison’s) denials, and vice versa for conservatives. One of the wonderful things about being human, however, is we can become better than our instincts. We can learn to empathize. We can slow our minds, listen, reflect, and examine the evidence. And when the evidence is inconclusive, we can answer 'I don’t know.'"
2. Sexual abuse is horrific
Sexual abuse is common. It goes on in all areas of society and is often a matter of the powerful exploiting those who do not have as much power as they do. It is also horrific, degrading and demeaning – an attack on the mind and soul as well as the body. It must be terrible to be sexually assaulted and then not be believed when you tell others about it.
If Dr Ford was abused by Kavanaugh and is not believed then imagine the pain that will cause. I think of the young man raped at a party but when he went to the police was told that homosexual rape was very difficult to prove and so nothing was done. Or the children who live in fear and guilt and dare not tell anyone. It's hell on earth.
On the other hand it must be terrible to be accused of sexual assault when you didn’t do it and asked to proof your innocence. Think of how horrible this must be for Kavanaugh and his family – if he is being falsely accused. Think of the teacher whose life was made a misery by a couple of girls (who later admitted they were lying); he lost his job, got depression and ended up committing suicide. If Kavanaugh is innocent then this show trial is a real abuse.
3. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty
It seems that this great principle of justice is now largely redundant in American society. Senator Feinstein had no qualms about bringing in other accusations and referring to them as though they were true. The presumption of innocence is fading as fast as the presumption of Christianity. Feinstein asked: ”Is Brett Kavanaugh the kind of person we want on the Supreme Court?”. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement and an accusation. She had already decided that he was not. Dr Ford was a gift to her – providing an excuse for a judgement she had already made.
4. People should not be judged by politics
One of the reasons that people know who is innocent and who is guilty is their politics. On the one hand Republicans and people of a more conservative political view just know that he is innocent and she is either misrembering or lying (Donald Trump being the prime example). On the other hand, those who consider themselves more liberal and leftwing (although these terms are becoming largely meaningless) just know that she was telling the truth and he was lying. There is no room for doubt or lack of knowledge.
So this morning I just knew that those on my Twitter feed of that persuasion would come up with the goods….and they did. Nicola Sturgeon, Alaister Campbell and Vicky Beeching to name just a few, jumped on board the mob bandwagon and let the world know where they stood. It’s all about the patriarchy and the right-wing (and Brexit and Trump)…..never mind the actual facts of the case – they are largely irrelevant.
The Democratic Senators on the committee knew that Dr Ford was a "survivor" and a "brave victim" who is "an inspiration and teacher to America”. The Republican Senators knew that Kavanaugh was being set up and that he was a virtuous man who could do no "serious" wrong. What you think depends on your politics.
This is dangerous because it means that everything will be weaponised in the pursuit of political power. If someone can be removed from office, or prevented from taking office, because of unproven allegations, then no-one is safe.
The politicisation of sexual abuse is also dangerous because it encourages sexual abuse. If false claims are made then that undermines those who make real claims. If what we believe depends upon our politics then we run the risk of empowering those who share our views and enabling them to think that they can get away with it.
5. Hypocrisy reigns
The hypocrisy is seen in so many different areas.
The timing of this accusation is, to say the least, suspect. It was clear that at least one of the Senators knew about this months ago. So why has it just come up? Because in order to have an FBI investigation the hearing would have to be stopped, until after the November elections – when the Democrats hope they will have a majority on the Senate and will thus be able to block Kavanaugh anyway. Dr Ford may be a double victim. A victim of sexual assault and a victim of politics.
And then the question that no one dares ask. What if he were guilty of doing this 35 years ago? Does that forever exclude him from public life? If he is lying under oath that would exclude him. If this was a pattern of behaviour over many years then that would exclude him. But are we really saying that anyone who has committed any kind of crime or sin in the past is to be excluded from public office forever? If that standard were applied to all the Senators in that room, I suspect the Judicial committee would be a whole lot smaller.
Our society is hypocritical. We create the environment which makes sexual abuse more, not less likely. We sexualize children, celebrate pornography and glorify immorality. A culture which laughs at Animal House condemns those who live it out. That’s hypocrisy.
Watching the whole shambolic show was deeply disturbing.
America is in a mess. Kavanaugh was right to state that the confirmation process had become a national disgrace. He was also right to state that the Senate judicial committee Democrats had replaced “advise and consent with search and destroy”.
The politicisation of the judiciary (on all sides ) is the end of the rule of law and democracy. One of the most disturbing facts to come out of this whole debacle is that millions of dollars are being spent in campaigns both for and against Kavanaugh.
In the USA just now we are watching what happens when a nation loses its Christian foundations. It also loses its civilization, its law, its politics, its morality and perhaps above all, its mind.
This blog first appeared on TheWeeFlea.com and has been republished with permission.