U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Thursday released a statement indicating that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh stood accused by an unknown someone of having done a bad but unknown something. A whisper campaign ensued, only to be dispelled on Sunday, when the Washington Post broke a story that identified the accuser and stated plainly Kavanaugh’s alleged wrongdoing.
Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist from Northern California, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 35 years ago when he was a 17-year-old high school student—and she was just 15-years-old. According to Ford, a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh, in the presence of his male friend,
pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream . . . he put his hand over her mouth.
She went on to tell the Post she “thought he might inadvertently kill [her]” and that Kavanaugh “was trying to attack [her] . . . ”
This is obviously a serious matter with profound personal consequences for Kavanaugh and his family. It raises important political questions, too, the most important being what effect will such an 11th-hour accusation—in large part clearly a political hatchet job—have on the Supreme Court confirmation process? Will this new process be fair, or will it only be cynically and successfully applied against male, Republican-appointees for partisan gain?
The answer is obvious. It will be deployed against Republican-appointed men most of all, to the disproportionate benefit of Democrats, and will ultimately gravely delegitimize the Supreme Court.
But, important as those considerations are, they’re not what should most concern us at the moment.
What should concern us principally is the sort of society we’re becoming by repetition of this kind of angry, venomous ritual. The allegations against Kavanaugh are only the most recent and high-profile example—and certainly not the last.
The white-hot outrage that has become the currency of our politics is dangerous. It doesn’t take a luminous cultural critic to see that this kind of behavior—this outrage complex we’re building, this “Planet of Cops” we’re creating and coming to inhabit—is absolutely, unequivocally toxic and bad for our long-term prospects of realizing the common good in America.
It’s unsustainable, wicked, gross, and unjust; and it needs to stop.
Put aside whether we should approve of the emergent #MeToo norms around sex and relationships. Put aside how they’ve been applied and how they might be plausibly applied in future cases. Put aside, even, the political and cultural ramifications of who, precisely, stands to benefit most from the #MeToo movement.
Put all of that aside and realize: However we feel about any or all of those things, what the Democrats and the media and Ford are trying to inflict upon Kavanaugh—and what so many Twitter outrage mobs have similarly (and successfully) wrought upon so many others—is deeply unfair.
We have forgotten (or, more probably, we refuse to believe) that perfect justice is not attainable in this life, because we’re fallible creatures. We need to recognize once more that only in the hereafter is there a hope of God’s perfectly righting every wrong (including every bad tweet); only then will we begin collectively to dispel this mass delusion we’re all laboring under at present.
But if the political power play that Feinstein and company have concocted succeeds, it will mark a tipping point, past which things will only become uglier, more brutal, and more merciless. It is not a road we want to take. It will unleash a Hobbesian war of “all against all,” in which no one except the unimpeachable—saints—will be safe. (But not even them—Socrates was right to teach in Plato’s The Republic that even the perfectly just man suffers.)
This path carries enormous costs. So many decent people and their families will be shredded, not to mention the damage we will do to ourselves, to our own souls, by acting out such depravity. Our polity will not recover. We will simply begin regularly bickering about who among us gets eaten last by the gaping Maw of Outrage.
That is not a world I want to live in. And you shouldn’t want to, either.
And when the last law was down and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, … the laws all being flat? … If you cut down [all the positive law], do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? … I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.
This is not a call for mealy-mouthed relativism or incoherent non-judgmentalism but, rather, a plea for proportionality, decency, and clear-headedness about the Golden Rule.
Could even a single one of us stand upright—naked, exposed—as we stared into the face of King Mob, empowered as it would be to examine fully every single facet of our lives, regardless of how private or old the events they contained within them were?
That way lies nothing but madness and misery, and we should not make Judge Kavanaugh the next of its many, many victims.
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