In recent days, I was accused (or, really, told of a hazy memory) of having sexually assaulted a young woman when I was 12 or 13. She would have been 14 or 15 at the time. The accusation was made not by the woman (girl) whom I allegedly assaulted, but by her younger sister, who would have been 8-10 at the time.
This assault would have taken place within a year or so of the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford by Brett Kavanaugh.
As a result, I find myself in an oddly parallel circumstance to Brett Kavanaugh – facing an accusation of horrific (or at least horrible) behavior of which I have no conscious memory, more than 35 years ago. Unlike Kavanaugh, I haven’t chosen to live my life in the public spotlight, I haven’t sought the trust of millions of Americans, and I haven’t dedicated my life to advancing my views at the expense of others’ under the cover of a black robe. Nor have I used my position to surround myself with super-smart, super-hot young women.
So, with all that, I find myself wondering: Why did Brett Kavanaugh deny something he couldn’t possibly deny with certainty? Was he never drunk? Never at a party? Because if he ever was drunk, and at a party – and who among us in our middle adulthood wasn’t? – how can he possibly say with certainty that anything didn’t happen?
Why did he choose to scope out an indefensible position – I never did this or anything like this – rather than occupy a far more plausible – and sympathetic one? (That’s a rhetorical question. I know why he did, and I know why the Republicans are lining up behind him as he does so.)
Why did he not say something like the following:
“When I was a high school student, I began drinking. In my crowd, there were a number of parties at which alcohol flowed freely and, like many of my peers, I occasionally drank way too much of it. On a few occasions, I even found myself unsure of precisely what had happened while I was drunk.
“Dr. Blasey Ford says that I attacked her physically, sexually. Because of the nature of memory, and the nature of alcohol, I can’t say definitively that she’s wrong. And I don’t question her sincerity: regardless of what I remember, it seems that she likely was assaulted as she remembers – or at least, that she has a persistent, authentic, and sincere memory of such an assault.
“I find it hard to imagine that the assault she remembers was an assault by me. I don’t recall ever having assaulted anyone in any way, least of all in the sociopathic, horrifying way in which she remembers having been assaulted by me. It would be utterly inconsistent with how I have conducted myself in every waking, conscious, sober moment of my life. Further, her allegation has no resonance in my body: when I hear what she says, I don’t have even the faintest stirring of, ‘Maybe, maybe, that could have happened.’ What I have is revulsion, empathy, horror. How horrible that she suffered. How horrible that she has been saddled with such a traumatic memory. And how horrible that she’s affixed that memory, rightly or wrongly, to me.
“I wish I could say, ‘Yes – I think that likely happened. I have no memory of it, but, hearing her description, I have the sense, deep in my bones, that it did, or at least, that it might have.’ I wish I could give her that validation of her experience, of her memory. I wish I could follow that validation with a full-throated, whole-hearted apology for boorish, unforgivable behavior.
“Unfortunately, I can’t. I can’t even say that while I have no memory of the events she remembers, they seem not entirely inconsistent with other things I know about that time of my life that happened outside of my memory. The best I can do is to say that, if indeed the events she remembers took place in any way like how she remembers them, I am sorry, and shocked. Sorry, because no woman ever should be saddled with events, and memories, like those. And shocked because the assault she remembers simply bears no resemblance to any behavior I ever have known myself to engage in.
“For all of my teenaged drinking, instances of hazy memory are few, and, to my knowledge, no one else, ever, has reported or described to me, or to anyone I know, my engaging in any behavior even remotely similar to what she remembers. It simply feels, seems, implausible to me that her memory might be correct.
“That said, it would be cruel of me to insist on the veracity of my absence of a memory in the face of her actual memory. All I can do is to say this: Dr. Blasey Ford, I am sorry. If I did, in fact, do as you remember, I’m horrified. And if I didn’t – as my gut tells me is the case – I’m still horrified. Horrified that you have suffered in the ways you have, and horrified that you now are suffering in the ways you are as this memory has surfaced – against your wishes – in the public.
“And, regardless, this must be said: I was one boy in a school filled with privileged boys who felt a sense of entitlement, at a time at which one of the ways that privilege and entitlement manifested was in a far-too-common tendency of boys to use all sorts of power – physical, social, political – to take from girls and women what women didn’t want to give. I believe strongly that I was a good young man, that I acted in ways that were respectful of others. But I can’t deny that, in retrospect, much of the behavior in which my peers and I engaged looks far less benign, that it exacted a high price from those who didn’t enjoy the same privilege and entitlement we did.
“While I can’t offer the apology I wish I could to Dr. Blasey Ford, I can express sadness at my unavoidable, essentially involuntary participation in what was, in retrospect, a toxic culture, and my great appreciation for the courage it has taken for Dr. Blasey Ford to come forward with a painful memory she worked so hard first to suppress, and then, to keep private. Similarly, while I don’t, ultimately, believe her memory is accurate – at least as it pertains to the identity of her assailant – I am grateful for the help it, and the discussion it has now stimulated, provides us in continuing our long, long, progress toward more equitable, fair, and safe treatment of women, and their undeniable, and inalienable, right to sexual safety and self-determination.
“In closing, I say to Dr. Blasey Ford, ‘Thank you, for your courage, and for your willingness to contribute to this process.’ And to the Senators considering my nomination, I say this: ‘While I very much hope you will confirm my nomination and grant me the opportunity to continue to serve my country on its highest court, I beg of you, please do not make the easy mistake of situating Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegation exclusively within the political sphere. Do not demonize her, malign her, or attack her veracity in supposed defense of me, of my integrity. My integrity is intact. Regardless of whether I did or did not do what she remembers – and again, I don’t believe I did – it’s far more important to the country that her allegation – and the vagaries of memory – be explored in an objective, sober way than it is for me to be confirmed, and I would far prefer to be confirmed after such an objective, sober, and fair discussion. And if, after such a discussion, I am not confirmed, I have every confidence it will be for the good of the country.'”
The fact that Brett Kavanaugh didn’t say something like what I just wrote is, in and of itself, evidence of his unfitness to be a Supreme Court Justice.
Or, honestly, a decent man.