Hear me roar
US circus shocks the world
By all accounts you could hear a proverbial pin drop in Washington DC on Thursday — lobbyists, advisers, secretaries, clerks, lawyers, senators, White House staffers were crowded around screens watching the special hearing convened by the Senate judiciary committee into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Hotel lobbies in the capital of the world’s most powerful country were lined with “Do Not Disturb”. Through the cracks in the doors, if you paused and craned your neck to listen, you might have heard the soft, controlled and intelligent tones of a 51-yearold professor of psychology telling the group of predominantly old, white men in front of her that she might be in need of some caffeine. She was there to perform her civic duty, telling them and the American public what had happened to her in a bedroom at a party 36 years ago when she was 15 and a drunken 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her onto a bed, held a hand over her mouth and attempted to force himself on her. She also introduced the world to a few Neurology 101 terms, while explaining the science of memory. There was no chance, as some of her interrogators wanted to believe, that this was a case of mistaken identity. The word “hippocampus” was Google’s biggest query on Friday.
In the age of peak TV and the oversaturation of reality television, it was surprising to see how this very real account of a meeting between real people and its effects on them was more compelling than any staged, hair-pulling, expletive-filled fracas between the real housewives of New York or Joburg could ever be. By the end of Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, even the rabid right-wing, conspiracy-theory-embracing pundits of Fox News agreed that she was a credible witness — courageous, honest and (worst of all) a real obstacle to the Republican dream of appointing two lifetime judges to the Supreme Court in the idiocracy of Donald Trump.
That’s all thanks to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia last year and the resignation of current Supreme Court judge Anthony Kennedy earlier this year. Even the most masochistic Republicans can put up with the Sisyphean verbal and mental gymnastics necessary to survive the Trump era for four years if it means they secure a Supreme Court with a majority Republican bench capable of pushing their agenda long after Trump has left the stage.
Trump will one day be no more than a horrible, sweaty nightmare, but that’s fine if it means abortion is no longer legal — a Republican wet dream since Roe vs Wade made it legal in 1973. With midterm elections around the corner and all the signs pointing to an upset for the Republican control of the Senate and Congress, the Kavanaugh appointment is a critical necessity for the GOP and the Calvinist conservative agenda of the Silent Majority.
It happened once before, when Anita Hill was called to testify before the same committee to air her allegations of sexual misconduct against nominee Clarence Thomas. On that October day in 1991, all eyes were similarly captivated by events unfolding on the Hill. The world was different in some ways but, as it turns out, horribly similar in others. Thomas played all the cards available to him — race, working-class background, his work ethic — winning not only the hearts of the Senate but the US at large. Hill was humiliated, insulted, disbelieved and ill-treated by a room full of angry, indignant Republicans hellbent on ensuring that their man took his seat. Thomas’s appointment was confirmed and he still serves on the US’s highest court. Hill continues to be vilified by the public and the media.
This time, realising that there is something called #MeToo that’s big on that thing called the internet that some weird translucent kid called Mark Zuckerberg has something to do with, the good ol’ boys of the Senate decided to step back and let a woman ask Ford questions because that would be better for the optics. By the time the overly polite senators broke for lunch, it seemed that the idea had worked in the committee’s favour — Ford had surpassed their expectations in her performance of nice, acceptable, well-raised femininity — no shrills, no hysterical fuss even when recounting an incident that was clearly still the source of trauma.
Things were not looking good for Kavanaugh and even the Oros man himself kept his tiny hands away from his phone — an acknowledged sign of restraint and respectfulness for a man who generally just spits out his thoughts like a tennis-ball machine.
But Republicans hadn’t counted on the performance of a cornered Big Bretty K. With their lunchtime KFC buckets barely digested, they were treated to an all-out, balls-to-the-wall show of stifled tears and testosterone-fuelled, never-back-down indignation by their great white Godfearing hope.
It was as if the nominee had spent the weeks leading up to the most important job interview of his life spiritually ingesting the “men’s movement” philosophy of Robert Bly’s 1990s bestselling self-help book Iron John — be tough, be wild, but also don’t forget and don’t be ashamed to cry when necessary.
Or maybe he’d just watched footage of Clarence Thomas’s hearing and decided to take a similar approach — attack the process, remind people of how hard you had to work to get there, invoke the pressures on your beloved family and remind everyone that you’re a child who is the indelible result of lessons instilled in you by your angelic mother and father.
In Kavanaugh’s case, you’re an only child whose mother taught you to use your common sense. Your father — and this really makes you cry like a baby — taught you the power of keeping calendars that double as diaries of the mundane jock-life and occasional struggles of everyday middle-class, privileged American existence. It’s something you’ve done since you were a teen and have presented as evidence to show you couldn’t possibly have been where your accuser claims you were on that summer night in 1982.
YOU ARE BRETT KAVANAUGH — AN ALL-AMERICAN, HARD-WORKING, WOMEN-RESPECTING HERO — and boy, did the Senate hear YOU ROAR!
Yes, you drank beer in your teens. You still drink beer, you like beer, you may have drunk too much beer but who hasn’t? You never blacked out from beer drinking contests — what kind of a man would?
You have a list longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls of female friends and women who’ve worked with you that testifies to your respect and admiration and assistance to them. Some of your best friends are white, black, women, LGBTQI … old chestnuts.
This John Wayne indignation finally gets all those old, white, out-of-touch Republicans — who earlier were bending over backwards to show how nice they could be to the good doctor victim — out of their seats and raising their fists in support of the obvious victim of a Democrat conspiracy orchestrated by the satanic Clintons and the Left who just won’t accept that we’re living in a world where Trump is the leader of the free world.
Lindsey Graham grabs the mike and claims that not voting you into office would be an act of “legitimising the most despicable thing I’ve seen in my time in politics”. Really, senator? Maybe you should google Donald Trump?
Of course, when level-headed Democrats ask you if you’d be willing to comply with an FBI investigation into the accusations, you’re unable to give a straight answer. Quite frankly, Brett, that lack of Solomon-style wisdom one would expect from a potential Supreme Court justice is more terrifying than reassuring. But you are, as of this writing, a probable future justice of the Supreme Court.
Long may you reign and enjoy many beers with your friends. While Trump-time may be uncertain, Miller-time at your house will be guaranteed for life.
The scariest thing for the US is not that it may take more than three accusations of sexual misconduct to stop a Supreme Court nominee in his tracks, but rather the ease with which, even in the age of #MeToo and increased awareness of the unequal relationships between men and women in the digital age, if you’re a polite, wellbehaved, clear-headed and thoughtful woman, you don’t stand a chance against the righteous indignation of a man who knows how and when to cry.
Kavanaugh may be innocent, but after his performance this week, there are few men in positions of power who are willing to make him prove it, and that’s enough for the Supreme Court.
Maybe he’d just watched footage of Clarence Thomas’s hearing and decided to take a similar approach