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It’s not a search for truth

Regarding the impasse between Christine Blasey Ford, who has come forward to accuse Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, of attempted rape some 36 years ago, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, no resolution has, as of this writing, been found.

Through her attorney, Ford stated that an investigation should be conducted by the FBI and all ancillary information gathered. The Republican chairman, Chuck Grassley, denied that request, insisting that his staff is capable of carrying out the investigation. He then set a deadline of last Friday morning for submission to the committee of a copy of her opening statement and her biography. He and other Republicans have indicated that if she does not testify regarding her allegation, there will be a vote shortly thereafter on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Neither Grassley and the Republican leadership nor the White House have explained the urgency behind the deadline or why the process cannot be delayed in order to allow the FBI to conduct a thorough inquiry given what is at stake: a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Trump, when asked, said the FBI had declined: “it’s not their thing.” The Federal Bureau of “it’s not our thing.” Seriously?

Perhaps the facts will have changed by the time this column publishes. But clearly, in the absence of any willingness by Grassley, et al., to carry out a systematic analysis, it will be up to the media to step into the breach and conduct a search for truth. This is far more than a “he said/she said” moment, something the Republican senators who control the committee are determined to ignore. It’s also about the complexities of traumatic memory. Sen. Lindsay Graham said he considered Ford’s allegations the equivalent of a “drive-by shooting … I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.”

Briefly, a word about the press and the context of this moment: Reporters and news media hosts, replete with guest panels of journalists and attorneys, will, of course, try to answer myriad questions. But I think it also prompts a much larger cultural question: How is it possible that we live in a society where women must create a #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault as a line of defense or a cry of protest? Ditto #TimesUp, which grew out of the Harvey Weinstein effect. What is our society teaching our sons about what it means to be a man who views women as equals, worthy of respect and consideration and not as objects to be exploited?

To enter into an intimate relationship with a woman is to give voice to the belief that it must be a sharing of self, disarming in its sincerity and born out of a covenant that it is inherently an act of willingness (yes is yes, no is no). To violate that commitment using coercion, force or personal power because of size or position is deeply wrong. In an ideal world, only the most damaged among us would ever perpetrate such an act.

And yet, as women raise their voices, tell their truths, at great personal cost, we learn that it is stunningly common, often giving birth to a silence that may last decades. We know sexual assault exists, we hear its echoes. It is a reprehensible phenomenon and yet it is ever with us. As a society, are we mindlessly conveying misogynistic attitudes?

We are about to observe senators twisting and distorting incomprehensible and premature judgments — Sen. Orrin Hatch opined that Ford must be “mixed up” — all while pursuing Kavanaugh’s confirmation at any cost. It can seem as if the Anita Hill hearing never took place.

And there is the meta-question that shrouds all of the offered Republican rationales for a fraudulent urgency: Why would Judge Kavanaugh himself not insist, as Ford has, that a thorough investigation be completed based on a fundamental wish that were he to be confirmed, he would sit on this exalted bench free of any doubt or shade?

Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.

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