When Lady Lib­erty is a vic­tim of as­sault

The Ka­vanaugh hear­ings opened the door to cyn­i­cal politi­cians and their lack­eys

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Catharine Trauer­nicht

The Statue of Lib­erty, named Lib­erty En­light­en­ing the World and known af­fec­tion­ately as Lady Lib­erty, stands res­o­lute in New York Har­bor, a bea­con of free­dom un­der our con­sti­tu­tional rule of law to which mil­lions of peo­ple from around the world flock for safety and a new life. At her feet lie a bro­ken shackle and chain. What a pow­er­ful sym­bol for the unique na­tion that is the United States of Amer­ica.

But shack­les are slowiy form­ing once again around Lady Lib­erty’s feet, our feet. Fun­da­men­tal tenets of the rule of law that serve to pro­tect each of us from capri­cious and despotic gov­ern­ment are be­ing chipped away by cyn­i­cal politi­cians and their lack­eys, while large num­bers of Amer­i­cans ap­pear obliv­i­ous to their en­croach­ing servi­tude.

As un­set­tling as has been the con­fir­ma­tion process for U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, it also has been a star­tling con­fronta­tion with what has be­come of the “women’s move­ment” over the last 50-plus years. And it has served to ex­pose how un­equipped younger gen­er­a­tions are to pre­vent the shack­les of tyranny from re­turn­ing.

I grew up in the re­bel­lious years of the 1960s and ’70s, as the women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment was form­ing. From el­e­men­tary through high school, I at­tended a girls’ school and went on to grad­u­ate from a women’s col­lege. My fa­vorite poster in my col­lege dorm room was of for­mer Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Golda Meir, wear­ing white gloves, sit­ting with a hand­bag on her lap, with the cap­tion: “But Can She Type?” We were raised to be con­fi­dent, knowl­edge­able women, “lib­er­ated” to en­ter fields of em­ploy­ment that had been closed to us be­fore. But some­thing hap­pened over the next 50 years. The women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment mor­phed into women’s vic­tim­hood, painfully rep­re­sented by Chris­tine Blasey Ford.

Lib­er­a­tion with­out per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity can lead to un­wanted con­se­quences. Find­ing your­self un­able to re­mem­ber what hap­pened dur­ing a party begs the ques­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity for one’s ac­tions. My un­der­stand­ing is that vic­tims of as­sault vividly re­call de­tails of abuse as they des­per­ately fight back against at­tack­ers. Be­ing un­able to re­call when, where and how some­thing hap­pened, who was in­volved, un­able to pro­duce cor­rob­o­rat­ing wit­nesses, and then claim your­self as a vic­tim, does a dis­ser­vice to women who had the pres­ence of mind to re­main alert and able to de­scribe de­tails of an at­tack. It sets back the women’s move­ment cru­sade for re­spect. And it ig­nores the ne­ces­sity for per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Let me pause a mo­ment and say, af­ter watch­ing the Ford–Ka­vanaugh hear­ing on Thurs­day from start to fin­ish, I be­lieve that Chris­tine Blasey Ford very likely was a vic­tim of as­sault. But the per­pe­tra­tor was not Brett Ka­vanaugh. Even the peo­ple she named as wit­nesses said he was not in­volved and that the event didn’t hap­pen.

Many of Mrs. Ford’s fel­low alum­nae from the Holton-Arms School penned a let­ter ex­press­ing sol­i­dar­ity with her. They cited no facts to sub­stan­ti­ate her charges against Judge Ka­vanaugh, only sym­pa­thies for hav­ing heard sim­i­lar sto­ries or ex­pe­ri­enced the party life where liquor flowed freely. They want “a world where women are free from ha­rass­ment, as­sault and sex­ual vi­o­lence.”

Apart from psy­chotics, who doesn’t? But like ac­cusers dur­ing the Salem witch Tri­als, th­ese alums pointed their col­lec­tive fin­ger at Judge Ka­vanaugh and pro­claimed sup­port for their fel­low alumna with no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing. Su­sanna Jones, head of the Holton-Arms School, pub­licly stated her pride in Mrs. Ford for us­ing her “voice” and cel­e­brated the sol­i­dar­ity of the Holton “sis­ter­hood” for their let­ter. What was cel­e­brated was vic­tim­hood. Not em­pow­er­ment.

Ap­par­ently, the Holton-Arms School is not teach­ing Amer­i­can ju­rispru­dence to its stu­dents. Even a rudi­men­tary un­der­stand­ing of the Western canon and U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion would en­lighten stu­dents to know that the ac­cused is pre­sumed in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. It is a fun­da­men­tal tenet of our sys­tem of ju­rispru­dence trac­ing back to the Magna Carta. Maybe they haven’t been taught about the Magna Carta ei­ther.

Young women, en­cour­aged by teach­ers, moth­ers, aunts, class­mates and friends who chant “Guilty!” in the clear ab­sence of any ev­i­dence of proof, are trav­el­ing down a most dan­ger­ous path of ig­no­rance.

Equally fright­en­ing has been the bla­tant as­sault on the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence by Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer. He de­clared that Judge Ka­vanaugh was not pro­tected by the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence be­cause he was not un­der­go­ing a crim­i­nal trial. Think about that. The tit­u­lar head of the Demo­cratic Party in Congress ef­fec­tively says a nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court can be damned with un­sub­stan­ti­ated charges sim­ply be­cause he or she is not un­der crim­i­nal charge. That means you, too, dear reader, could be as­saulted with any ac­cu­sa­tion as long as you’re not in a crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing.

Are we liv­ing in Stalin’s Rus­sia, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Ger­many, Mus­solini’s Italy? What is hap­pen­ing in our beloved coun­try? Par­ents, it’s time for you to ask what your chil­dren are be­ing taught in their schools. When Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s fel­low grad­u­ates of the Holton-Arms School sign a let­ter in “sol­i­dar­ity” with her, not even ques­tion­ing the ve­rac­ity of her charges, alarm bells should ring.

How does our unique repub­lic sur­vive when the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence is so cav­a­lierly dis­re­garded? With ev­ery point­ing of the col­lec­tive fin­ger and ev­ery pre­ma­ture pro­nounce­ment of “Guilty!” with­out a mod­icum of proof, the shack­les are tight­en­ing once again around Lady Lib­erty’s feet. Our feet. Lady Lib­erty is the real vic­tim of as­sault. Catharine Trauer­nicht is a writer in McLean, Va.


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