Saturday, September 29, 2018

I believe Christine Blasey Ford

I think the place I wondered into for dinner was called the Mad Rose. A good place to go on the night when you are mad and going to see a movie about a mad king.

I watched her testimony. I watched Kavanaugh's. That night when I'd had enough, I took myself out to dinner and to the Fathom Events' "King Lear" with Ian McKellan--a film of the play from London, captured live. "Lear" is a typical Shakespeare tragedy, by which I mean almost everyone dies. It felt like a party. Popcorn and my silent cheers every time another manipulative character met his/her bloody end. Though I flinched and squirmed when Cornwall gouged out the good Gloucester's eyes. Earlier in front of the TV, I'd felt like gouging out my own.

Christine Blasey Ford walked into an environment where she knew no one except the small coterie of lawyers, husband, and maybe another few persons that she'd brought with her. She was in a room mostly populated by men to talk about being sexually assaulted. In a strange city. In a different time zone. Participating in a process she knew so little about that she was surprised to learn just a few weeks earlier, that she'd need a lawyer. She was there to tell what had happened to her 36 years  earlier. A story of assault and how she'd feared for her life. A hazy story with many of its details lost to memory's inherent failings while other details had drilled themselves into her being.

Dr. Ford suffers from anxiety. Check. She suffers from claustrophobia. Check. She's afraid to fly. Check. Yet she flew to D.C. to appear at the hearing. Check. While the fear of flying yet flying conundrum seemed to puzzle a few people, I wasn't one of them. I am afraid to fly. Flying is anxiety and claustrophobia combined. But I have to fly if I want to get to the places I need to go. I need an aisle seat. Near the front or the rear of the cabin. I need booze. I need the strange man sitting next to me not to touch me. Not his leg against my leg. Not his arm against mine. I need more booze. I need something completely engaging to read. Preferably something somewhat terrifying. Though not something terrifying about flying. Terror to cure terror. A weird homeopathy.  I might watch a movie if there's an appealing one offered, but if there's genuine emotional content, often I will sob uncontrollably--like I did recently when I watched the the Mr. Rogers movie on the way back from Minnesota. Love and its companion emotions  move us in the face of terror. Those are the moments during the hearing that Christine Blasey Ford cried.

Bret Kavanaugh was in his element. D.C. Familiar faces. Scores of men ready to believe him, rooting for him, the esteemed federal judge. Yet he came in full of bluster and protest. He would not or could not answer many questions directly. I might believe that he believes that he did not attack Dr. Ford. But that doesn't mean that he didn't attack her. In the best case scenario that I can imagine the Bret Kavanaugh of then and the Bret Kavanaugh of now might not know one another, but there was a struggle going on inside the weeping man blustering and bullying in order to protect his honor. A knock-down, belligerent, eye-gouging battle wherein the now Bret would pluck out the "vile jelly" in order to not see the past Bret.

I was such a stupid 15-year-old. I would not have survived the wild 80s in a big anonymous suburb brimming with affluence and influence. But I know how boys can be boys. In 1970 I went to a party in the woods after prom with my date. A bonfire, the night night sky through the treetops. Stars in my eyes. Romance. A perfecting ending to big event of senior year. But the only other girl was leaving just as I arrived. "Hey, why don't you pull a train for us?" one of the football players asked minutes later. I didn't know what that phrase meant. I'd never heard it. The look in that boy's eyes told me. The laughter of the other boys told me. I remember all their faces in the firelight. And their names. I remember how my date escorted me back to the car and we left.

I want to hear the testimony from the other women who've accused Kavanaugh and those who have told about his drinking. There are so many survivors of sexual assault. I want those stories. Terror to cure terror. Voices to give voice. Every time a woman speaks, another woman will speak. I have to believe that story by story, vote by vote, jail sentence by jail sentence, impeachment by impeachment, change will push its way forward. And I believe that the good men, even those who have suffered from the madness of not understanding, of not believing will, like Lear, come around to see the truth of their own tragedy.

Get thee glass eyes, 
And like a scurvy politician seem 
To see the things thou dost not. 
---(Lear to the blinded Gloucester)


Anonymous said...

You've written a beautiful essay about such an ugly thing. This has been the hardest week to get through. I'm never going to forget the sneering anger on their faces, especially Graham and the liar Kavanaugh. I've surveyed most of the women I know, every single one has experienced sexual harassment or assault. Every Single One. Thank you for writing here.

37paddington said...

I too believe her. I too admire her courage. I too despise those sneering, entitled, rageful men who think women beneath them and how dare we question them. i am shaking with rage and memories of my own. and we go on. thank you for this.