America the Delusional: Lies and the Kavanaugh Hearings

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Did Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assault Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in 1982? The Democrat base is convinced Kavanaugh is lying; the Republican base is convinced Ford is lying. They’re convinced of this because the two parties and their constituents no longer trust each other to act in good faith. As well they might, because good faith can’t flourish in a society where deceit and self-deception not only abound but are excused, and even Christians try to justify lies according to some greater good. All Kavanaugh’s and Ford’s testimonies revealed is that our culture has lost its soul in a web of lies and politically convenient myths.

The Revenge of Subjectivism

The only people who really know what happened at that party 36 years ago are Ford, Kavanaugh, and writer Mike Judge. There were no cameras present to record every moment; even today, when camera-ready cell phones seem omnipresent, many social transactions manage to escape posterity. Even if we grant the memories of assault victims don’t undergo change or degradation, there’s no link or port to our limbic systems to which we can hook up a thumb drive or a USB cable and download our minds. All three have potential motives for telling the truth and for lying. Both sides have spent plenty of man-hours poking holes in their stories.

Call it “the revenge of subjectivism”: In the absence of objective facts, and even in absence of agreement whether objective facts exist and are knowable, credibility becomes uselessly self-referential. What’s “true” for you isn’t necessarily what’s “true” for me; the standards of credibility are whatever you choose. Nobody has to believe either Kavanaugh or Ford, especially if doing so conflicts with your view of The Way the World Really Is. The essence of subjectivism is that my preference/desire/need to believe X trumps all facts and logic which say not-X is true. They can’t be “facts” or “logic” if they disrupt my worldview or self-image.

And if you disagree with me, you’re defective. You’re stupid or biased or misogynist or hysterical or internalizing the oppressor or yadda-yadda-yadda. What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me, but what’s true for me better darn well be true for you, too!

Consequently, the testimonies of Ford and Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee were non-events. She was emotional but calm and direct. He was passionate and persuasive. Grilled by prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, Ford’s testimony didn’t meet the “preponderance of evidence” standard of a civil trial. Lobbed softballs by the Committee, Kavanaugh was combative and often evasive, not of a judicial temperament. Few minds and hearts were changed; many were insulted and outraged. The game-changer turned out to be Sen. Jeff Flake, who was buttonholed in an elevator by two assault victims. Otherwise, it was a sideshow and a Senatorial pose-a-thon.

Politics at Its Ugliest

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s mismanagement of the Ford accusation has done female sexual assault victims no favors. Rachel Lu argues that “it was a textbook case of putting process over principle, cynically using a woman’s traumatic sexual experiences in the manner most likely to gain a tactical advantage.” Jonathan V. Last contends that the discord sowed by the slow-walk “makes it harder for women to bring assault claims.” Indeed, I’ve already seen one article advising right-wing parents how to protect their sons against the wicked lies of scheming feminists. “So congratulations, Sen. Feinstein,” snarled Jonah Goldberg, “you’ve done the unimaginable: You’ve made our politics even uglier.”

But Feinstein is not alone in trading on women’s sexual trauma. Third-wave feminism feeds like a vampire on the pain and anger of female victims. As I reported a couple of years ago, men are more frequently the targets of sexual assault (and women are more often the aggressors) than official reports and conventional wisdom would lead us to believe. Same-sex assaults are also underreported. However, neither of these facts are convenient to the feminist narrative of the “war on women,” so they’re roundly ignored or dismissed: “We’re not talking about you.” Only women victimized by men count because they prop up the patriarchy bogeyman.

To be sure, Republicans have by no means conducted themselves blamelessly in the process. In fact, the verbal abuse of Dr. Ford by some nominally Christian right-wingers, in a perhaps more civilized age, would have merited the cads a horsewhipping or led to a call for pistols at twenty paces. And Pres. Trump’s mockery of Ford and the #MeToo movement was despicable, a new low for an Administration that’s already a global embarrassment and an historical nadir. In their zeal to protect Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation and ram through his nomination, few GOP senators have shown any respect or concern for Ford or her family.

“In saner times,” harrumphed the New York Times, “the Senate would have paused in its mad rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh when the first credible allegations of sexual assault surfaced.” But these are not saner times. The credibility of all the allegations is in doubt precisely because Feinstein, a Democrat, withheld revelation of the first one until the confirmation process had moved into the public phase. It was an act of bad faith that displays the rampant distrust the two parties feel for each other. But it also shows that the truth of the allegation mattered less than its political effect.

Kavanaugh and Caesar’s Wife

I wish I could wholeheartedly believe either Ford or Kavanaugh. If this were a felony trial and I was a juror, I couldn’t say with confidence that the evidence is sufficient to meet the test of “beyond reasonable doubt.” The test it does meet, though, is the “Caesar’s wife” rule; no one, no matter how exemplary their character might be, is entitled to a SCOTUS seat. Trump probably already has another potential nominee in the on-deck circle, and the Democrats have little real hope of keeping Kennedy’s seat open until Trump leaves office.

Does that mean it will only take one uncorroborated allegation to ruin a person’s life? That’s all it has ever taken. It’s horrible that so many victims get no justice because people don’t believe them. However, men have been imprisoned, executed, and even lynched on accusations alone; read up sometime on the French Reign of Terror. That’s why the Church considers rash judgment and calumny sins against the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477; cf. Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20).

Again, though, we don’t really know the truth about what happened that night, so we have no real right to claim certainty of either Kavanaugh’s guilt or Ford’s dishonesty. In saner times, we might have been willing to admit our ignorance and bid both plaintiff and defendant go in peace. But these are not saner times. It’s a morality play, and Ford and Kavanaugh have become avatars, symbolic devil-figures—the Lying Liberal Feminist and the Privileged White Male—drawn from the mythologies of mutually antagonistic secular cults. Ideology has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses.

A Nation of Liars

As St. Thomas Aquinas observed, it’s impossible for people to live with one another unless they can trust that each other is telling the truth. That trust is radically absent because we are a nation of liars, and our government—including our Liar-in-Chief, Donald Trump—is exactly the government we deserve. We lie to ourselves; we lie to others; we accuse as liars those who don’t tell us the lies we prefer to believe; we create rationalizations which make lying not only acceptable but praiseworthy, even expected. Writes Dr. Gregory Jantz, with no little irony:

As a nation, we’re accustomed to being lied to. In some ways, we’ve come to expect it. We’re also accustomed to lying and, it appears, we’re passing this trait along to our kids. A recent ethics study among teenagers found that 48% of boys and 35% of girls lied to save money and 80% lied to a parent about something significant. Of course, it was difficult to get completely accurate numbers because 25% admitted they’d lied on at least one or two of the survey questions—they lied about lying. There was a silver lining—92% of them felt satisfied about their personal ethics and character. Our kids may lie but at least they’ve learned to still feel good about themselves.

There’s no happy ending here. No one is going to win. It’s become less important that justice be done than that people believe themselves to be crusaders for justice. It’s become less important that the truth be told than that people have their self-interests served, their self-images protected, and their self-righteousness confirmed. These are not saner times, because sanity recognizes truth. Welcome to America the Delusional.

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7 thoughts on “America the Delusional: Lies and the Kavanaugh Hearings”

  1. And in 36 years he has no accusations against him which speaks volumes about that man and what he stands for.

    Pity not one of those baby murderers has any sense of guilt or shame about abortion and would do anything to continue murdering the unborn, even lie or stretch the facts.

  2. A well written piece. I must remind all readers that 100% of the human population of this world is imperfect and flawed. Imperfect and flawed people have used evil to murder and destroy other humans. It is also true that imperfect and flawed people have had to stand up and fight against evil, because there are no perfect souls among us to do it. The assumption that because none of us are “pure lilly white and sinless” that we are disqualified to stand for justice is absurd. This is a classic trick of evil to disarm all of us into giving up hope. This was on full display during the Kavanaugh hearing. It is very easy to have a stone cast at us and to be ashamed….if we are intimidated to run away and hide then we accept evil as our ruler. God has nobody else to use except flawed and imperfect people to do His will. It takes a warrior spirit to fight against evil. I think the Pro-Life crowd has wonderful intentions and has won many victories. But if the goal is to some day defeat Roe vs Wade do they not think there will be a battle?

    I also remind that Pontius Pilate knew full well that Jesus was not guilty. A number of times he approached the crowd and asked “are you sure?” (I paraphrase of course). He offered Barabbas as an alternative…no the ANGRY MOB refused and insisted that Jesus was to die. Pilate ended up taking sides (caving to political pressure) with the ANGRY MOB instead of the facts he had in front of him. This is called INJUSTICE. What we saw (and continue to see) in the Kavanaugh hearing is an angry mob trying to influence justice by using shame and fear. Exploiting Mrs Ford’s pain for political gain should be first in the injustice we all observed. Truth be damned.

    Let’s not kid ourselves here…for the Democrat protests this is all about keeping abortion legal. Highlighting all of our sins to make us hide and cower is a classic trick of evil. I actually have more “respect” for Democrats in that they are completely up front of their positions. Weak spined Republicans have had to do some soul searching which is good. I’m certain there must be some Pro-Life Democrats in those ranks, but probably too afraid (Fear) of coming forward. It is going to require a lot of discomfort on both sides. In God’s eyes there are only 2 sides, Good or Evil…He has put all of us flawed and imperfect people here to choose one or the other.

    I think it is very telling that people are mocking a “goody two shoes” Catholic man for making the effort to living true to Catholic principles as best he could. Most of us have fallen far short of what Mr Kavanaugh has accomplished. Does anyone recognize his testimony as a public Confession? Not in a private confessional with the authority of a priest to keep his sins private. Few of us would ever want our confessional conversations made public. I think this is why his testimony resonated with so many people, they connect with that kind of righteous indignation. No both “sides” are not equal, Republican and Democrat are interchangeable titles at the moment but clearly clearly good and evil are not equal either.

    Teaching his young children to pray for Mrs Ford is what we are supposed to do as Christians. The imperfect can teach perfect values to our kids. Mr Kavanaugh will be ok regardless of what happens, he has displayed an enormous amount of Catholic strength and resolve. For what was done to Mrs Ford however should break our hearts, shameless exploitation of a woman who most likely has experienced something very awful in her life. Every abused woman deserves justice and to be heard, not dragged thru a political process to keep a Pro-Life judge off the bench. True both sides are full of imperfect people. but no they are clearly not equal.

  3. “Ideology has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses.” O my Lord, this sums it up. Though religion was never the opiate of the masses ;). This article is a breath of neutral fresh air. I feel I cannot speak about this issue because whatever I say will offend someone. Everyone is dug in on their side along party lines and no one seems to care about finding the truth.

    But the Lord is revealing things. He is revealing truth from the highest levels of Church and politics, to local dioceses and school boards, to individual families, and he is even revealing our own hearts and minds to ourselves. Through this year of scandal I see how much of my thought life is judgmental or self righteous. I see how much conversion I am in need of.

    It’s as if the “Warning” or “Illumination” that has long been foreseen by visionaries is unfolding slowly, not all at once as prophesied. The age of Mercy is accompanied by the age of Illumination. But on the other side we have the age of No Mercy accompanied by the age of Delusion. Lord, reveal to us truth. Show us how to be merciful. Save us from our own delusions and mercilessness!

  4. I strongly disagree with the author’s remarks about the relative credibility of Ford and Kavanaugh. If one looks at the witnesses supporting Kavanaugh, women who have worked with him during his decades long career, been his clerks, his classmates, his colleagues, and the lack of witness support for Ford, then it’s a no-brainer to say that even though Ford may believe she’s telling the truth, she’s deluded, while Kavanaugh is telling the truth. But then I’m an old white male scientist who’s used to judging what’s true and not true, so why should my opinion matter?
    The Democrats have sinned against us by this smear campaign. They have caused us to disregard Matt 5:44, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,” so they have a lot to answer for here or in the hereafter.

    1. I made no judgment about the relative credibility of their testimonies because it’s really irrelevant at this point. Both sides are going to believe what they want about the relative credibilities and cherry-pick the facts they think are relevant according to the narrative which best suits their tribal needs.

    2. Anthony, I did not express myself clearly. I did understand that you made “no judgment about the relative credibility of their testimonies.” This I believe is an error. Truth is important, and deciding which party is telling the truth is fundamental to taking a stand on the matter. By the way, although I disagree with your premise, I agree with your conclusion. “These are not saner times, because sanity recognizes truth.” And, finally, even though I do disagree with some of what you’ve said, it’s a fine piece. Good on you for writing it (even though I don’t do the “pox on both your houses.”) And you might also want to read Jonah Goldberg’s column on this in the latest National Review Online, which takes your position to an extent.

    3. I have read Goldberg’s piece. Elizabeth Bruenig also has a piece in WaPo that takes the same position, albeit from the left side of the aisle. My article was in the hopper awaiting release when they came out, and including their reactions would have required more revision in a piece I was already updating almost every day as the situation developed. Both are fine articles.

      In the writing world, perfect is the enemy of deadlines. If I had taken more time to develop my point better, I would have been addressing not current events but recent history. Thanks for your critique.

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