By the time you read this Brett Kavanaugh will most likely be confirmed to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Actually, in all likelihood it is a done deal. The rules of the Senate and the votes necessary to approve Brett Kavanaugh have been aligned to make the conformation more likely than not. All the controversy notwithstanding, the rest of this display has been more political theater.
And that is a tough truth to stomach.
Whenever a woman stands up and faces the misogynist American public, I believe that she has already overcome incredible obstacles just to make it to that point. Dr. Blase-Ford is just such a woman, who bravely went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and delivered her truth. It was stunning, and dominated the news cycle for two full days.
Now the FBI is conducting its investigation, which in all likelihood will uncover more controversy. It may find nothing, or ti may find outrageous evidence that Kavanaugh was a serial sexual predator.
It reality, it will not do much to change the nature of politics or the majority of the American people who believe Kavanaugh and doubt Dr. Ford. This is despite the evidence that sexual harassment is common, even in the workplace.
At times like these I turn to Jean Paul Sartre. Doesn’t everyone? Sartre was a famous existentialist philosopher and social critic from France, who wrote about the naivete of the French public when it came to social justice and morality.
I recently reread one of his essays, entitled, “You Are Wonderful”, published in Les Temps Modernes, No. 135, May 1957.
Sartre wrote in his essay about how the atrocities of the French government could go unchallenged by the French people. His description of the modern state and the public that it governs struck me as telling when overlaid onto our current crisis regard Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court.
I will quote from his essay, You Are Wonderful, and attempt to explain how we are all Brett Kavanaugh now.
We are not naive, we are dirty. Our consciences have not been disturbed, and yet they are not clear. Our leaders know this full well; that is how they like us; what they want to achieve by their attentive care and well publicized consideration is, under the pretense of fake ignorance, our complicity…
Sartre was writing of the war in Algeria, but it applies here. Our consciences have not been disturbed by the sexual assault allegations. The majority of Americans believe Brett Kavanaugh, and doubt Dr. Ford. This reveals that the public that supports Donald Trump, despite twenty-one women accusing him of sexual assault, also believe that Brett Kavanaugh did not get drunk and molest a fifteen year old girl at a party.
The same public that believes that Donald Trump should lock up Hillary Clinton for daring to run for political office also doubts that Donald Trump had sex with two different pornographic actresses; while Melania Trump was pregnant with their child. Well, they may believe he did it, but they forgive him because it was before the presidency.
The American public is complicity on the crimes of Donald Trump, because he stands unrepentant and openly revealed to have lied and behaved in a fashion unbecoming a head of state, and yet the American public does not turn him out from office. This is how the Founders knew it would be. The will of the people to stomach criminality would always be greater then their thirst for justice.
Sartre continues to explain how the public is brought into supporting outrageous behavior:
So why should we believe these tales? Where is the evidence? Where are the witnesses? Those who declare themselves convinced were convinced already. Of course we cannot automatically rule out the possibility either… but we must wait, and not judge before properly informing ourselves. So we do not judge. But we do not try to inform ourselves either; as soon as we try to get hold of the documentary evidence, our open society turns into tropical rain forest: we vaguely hear…
The call for investigations are expected, and will return unremarkable results. It is safe to say that no one will be satisfied with the outcome of the FBI investigation. Supporters of Kavanaugh will conclude that there is nothing so terrible to prevent his ascension to the Court. Opponents will cry fowl, claiming a great social injustice is taking place. It sounds cynical, because it is as was done to Anita Hill when she came forward with very credible allegations against Clarence Thomas.
“And there is the first of our lies. All the demoralizes have to do is fold their arms and wait: we will finish the job ourselves… we forget the suppressed anger of the afternoon by shedding a few soft tears or by abandoning ourselves to after-dinner indignation.”
We will accept that the outcome is part of the process, and participate in our own quiet outrages or celebrations. This acceptance of the situation is a self denial of our responsibility for it. Accepting the process as legitimate legitimizes the violence against women and the elevation of their attackers.
“Our second lie has already been prepared for us. The Trap is the Safety Commission. If only we could trust it! But even if we wanted to, how could we summon up the necessary gullibility?…We know the Commission will be made up of irreproachable men, we also know that it will be unable to do anything: their decency enables us to conceal its impotence from ourselves. Thus we deny the government our trust, and yet we count on it to dispel our mistrust.”
Sartre describes our situation with the Senate, a body made up of irreproachable men, and a few irreproachable women. Their esteemed judgement will determine that they cannot make any judgments about Kavanaugh, because the evidence is lacking, and a noble man like he should not be destroyed by this circus of public outrage. Thus we will be outraged by this inaction, but it reinforces our loyalty to the process. At least a fair investigation was conducted!
The third and final lie that makes us all Brett Kavanaugh is that we will lie to ourselves about our neighbors.
“What is I were to find a criminal acquiescence in the man who has just shaken my hand? This man who says nothing, he who says nothing consents. But I do not say anything either. What if, on the contrary, it were he who reproached me for my spinelessness?
Mistrust teaches us a new solitude: we are separated from our fellow citizens by the fear of having to despise or of being despised. It is one and the same thing., moreover, since we are all the same and are afraid of questioning people because their response might well reveal our degradation.”
This is why I love to teach. In a class room the issues can be broken down, established through evidence, debate can ensue and all present can be called upon to share their perspective. I often demand that those who claim to have no opinion create one and participate. Life is not a spectator sport, if life is to be lived.
Sartre is essentially saying the same thing of his day, and our day as well. We must not sit back in silence, afraid to know that our neighbors are at peace with the sexual violence that exists everywhere for women. If one thing is obvious after Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is that women are not safe in the United States. For us as citizens and patriots, this cannot be allowed to continue as the sate of things in America.
If we do, the we are all Brett Kavanaugh, either perpetrator or accomplice to the sexual attack on women everywhere.
Regardless, most Americans will turn back to their daily lives of work, family and economic survival, seeking to be reminded only of the good, and to forget what makes them uncomfortable. Critical thought begins when we stop living in denial and see our own responsibility, even when we are silent. To do anything less is to live with the blind optimism that Sartre referred to when he wrote, “You are Wonderful!”