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We Must Do Better

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

I'm totally partisan and not backing down, but it's still not fair to call Boy Kavanaugh a rapist.

The fairest, most reasonable, way to interpret the limited (and not 100% reliable evidence) is that two drunken 17-year-old boys took advantage of an opportunity to toss a 15-year-old girl onto a bed and roughhouse with her. They were, of course, testing to see what thrills might result, but mostly just uproariously amusing each other - at her expense. Things (and boys and girls) being what they are . . . it could have resulted in a rape or any number of various consequences, injuries, or humiliations. It did result in a terrifying and life impinging trauma for the girl who had every reason to believe Football Bret was trying to rape her and could have accidentally killed her.

To the boys it was all "good" fun. Or at least it was "not TOO bad" fun - as most anyone who has ever been a boy would probably recognize. Perhaps it even ended in some awkward regrets or momentary cringing concerns all too soon pushed out of memory. After all, it was only one of very many drunken escapades. It was only one of numerous incidents of larger boys tormenting someone smaller and weaker, and only a single grunting example of how teams of boys grant each other status by denigrating females sexually.

And this (the absence of weight in the grander scheme of things) is the real import of Dr. Ford's testimony. Late adolescence is a liminal period where the torments and outrages of human childhood start to take on a new cast. And early adulthood is when we try to incorporate the habits and attitudes of childhood into ways of life worthy of respect even as we struggle to balance the importance of the images we imagine we project compared against the fitful ways we tend to see ourselves.

The "MeToo" movement is making it more and more impossible for all of us to ignore how predatory behaviors rehearsed in childhood affect the ways we organize our adult working and family lives even as we struggle against and perpetuate grander systems of dominance, oppression, - and order.

No doubt there is a limit to what established adults should be held accountable for in times long past when they were green, dependent, and not fully formed (as if we ever are). But the child is the father to the man, and very few men or women have the wisdom, experience, and greatness of heart to sit on the highest court of the most majestically and destructively powerful empire yet to shake the earth.

Decency, not partisanship, is what whispers so urgently we can do better than Bret Kavanaugh.

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