It’s very hard to watch another human being cry. It makes you feel like a voyeur, gazing upon a sad moment that should be lived privately. It is a minor agony, to experience the agony of another. It is particularly hard when you know that the person didn’t see the sorrow coming, didn’t expect the crushing weight of it and still can’t understand how it happened.
I cry in private. I cannot imagine what it must be like to weep in front of strangers, on national television, with hostility staring you down. As we saw Thursday, Brett Kavanaugh does, and his private agony became our national shame.
If you asked the Democrats, he was the source of his own shame, a man who had abused a woman named Christine Blasey Ford decades ago. They brought her to testify so that she could tell her story in much more detail than she’d ever given before, and so that they could derail the nomination of her alleged accuser. They brought her to D.C., even though she had requested anonymity, and were very solicitous of the pain she says she suffers. She herself trembled on the edge of tears, but they never came. Her voice was weak, halting, unsure of its bearings. It was a slight and girlish voice, so mismatched with her middle-aged status and exceptional resumé. It sounded as if, at any minute, she would cry. But she held it together.
I felt sympathy for Christine Blasey Ford, especially after watching her testify. I still do not believe her when she says Brett Kavanaugh attacked her, despite her protestations that she is “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who attacked her. I think she allowed herself to be used as a valuable tool in the unleashed fury of the #MeToo movement. But I did feel sorry for her predicament. She will be loved by many from here on out. She will be the new darling of the movement, taking the place of such flawed former idols as Asia Argento and Rose McGowan. She has more gravitas than the kids from Hollywood.
But if she causes Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to go down in flames, she will also be hated. She will always be pointed to as the woman used by the Democrats to get payback for Merrick Garland and, oh yeah, allow them to pretend they cared about victims of sexual abuse. She will never shake this notoriety, and she can cross the country, and her name will be on everyone’s lips. Some will love her. Many, many more will hate her for what she allowed herself to become.
Brett Kavanaugh will also be unable to shake the dirt and slime of these last few weeks from the folds of his judicial robe. He will be forever tied to a woman whom, he testified Thursday, he did not know and most likely never met. Among all of the women who know him, worked with him, dated him, were friends with him, were coached by him, and loved him, he will always be connected to Christine Blasey Ford, who says their lives intersected for a brief, violent, and bitter moment. She says it, and so to the ones who love her, it must be true.
Her testimony did not impress me, but I expected that because it was a mishmash of certainty and doubt, memory and fact. It was the testimonial equivalent of a Picasso painting, all strange shapes and pieces that sort of fit together, and sort of don’t. We were told that this is to be expected when women who suffer abuse try to explain themselves and their stories later on. As I said, it didn’t impress. And there were very few attempts to examine that story with force and fairness, and I was also not much impressed with Rachel Mitchell and her prosecutorial inquiry. The GOP made a mistake to opt for order instead of the drama that the Democrats engaged. When lives and reputations are at stake, you do not play by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules.
What did impress me was Brett Kavanaugh. His voice was a mixture of anger and righteous indignation at what was being done to him, and there was again that horrible sorrow that came out in long pauses, and actual tears. I saw in him every man who has ever been wrongly accused of a sexual offense. I saw the shame, the frustration, the absolute sense of being powerless.
He wasn’t, though. He might not be confirmed. In fact, that looks much less likely now. But through those real tears, the rage came through like a laser and a sword. And for a moment, I felt as if, finally, one man had found the courage to say my life matters. #MeToo.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.