I have spent the past week or so busy with my son’s Bar Mitzvah, which was this past weekend. It is also the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which means I have been off the grid for many days in the past weeks. However, in between all that, I have tried to keep up with the Brett Kavanaugh news.
When I came back online, I was alerted to this Grok Nation post highlighting workplaces and women and men who stepped out of their offices on Monday to declare that they believe survivors. This is a powerful and wonderful movement, and I would have loved to have been a part of it.
The complexities of trauma and memory are more than I can cover in this brief post and more than anyone can really cover in any article. I studied a small bit about post-traumatic stress disorder and memory in graduate school, but I am no expert. What I do know is that women need to be respected and heard and validated for what is universally known to be unacceptable behavior by men.
Many believe that the majority of men do not behave the way Kavanaugh has been accused of behaving. Men I know feel insulted to be lumped into this group who behave inappropriately and with vulgarity and, in many cases, cruelty. While I do believe that there are many good men, I also believe that it is difficult to not see patterns and tendencies in our patriarchal culture that are condoned.
Movies, television, and music often celebrate the kind of culture Kavanagh is being accused of participating in—as does the Greek system. Because he was a part of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, it seems to some extent that Kavanaugh did participate in a culture of drinking and parties, not to mention the nasty comments about girls in his high school yearbook. Kavanaugh belonged to a fraternity that once chanted “no means yes, and yes means anal.” The Greek system, while it does form a brotherhood that many find valuable, for the most part encourages a party atmosphere and the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.
I also think we should address the notion that the Democrats are using these accusations to delay his appointment until the midterm elections. I hate to be the one to break the news to all of you, but that’s likely very true and it is simply the way politics works. The Republicans would do the same thing and have done the same thing very recently with Merrick Garland’s seat. I don’t really lose sleep over it. If I want morality, I turn to religious leaders and personal mentors. Politics is not an inherently moral business. And I don’t say that to be a cynical jerk. Admitting that it is not a moral system but that it is one that we need to be a part of makes me able to engage.
I don’t know what will happen with Kavanagh. These accusations need to be taken seriously. I believe there are potential Supreme Court Justices who do not have accusations like this against them—I know that there can be. But I also know that the personality of men who rise to the ranks of business, entertainment and politics typically do not have a clean slate. Maybe I am being cynical to say that, but it’s been my experience.
Here is what I plan to tell my sons: It is never acceptable or dignified to become so intoxicated that you cannot remember things that happened. Anyone who is drinking copious amounts of alcohol likely needs protection and bystander support.
I also plan to tell my sons that even if they think someone wants to see their penis, it should stay in one’s pants unless one needs to go to the bathroom or engage in consensual relations with someone who is not intoxicated. I can’t believe I have to think about—and say—these things, but we all do.
Finally, I will remind my sons that all behavior becomes linked in one way or another. Whether you choose a public office and your behavior becomes public or whether your life is private and the things that you did stay in your heart and in your mind, you will be followed by your actions.
There is no free pass for unethical behavior. A religious life reminds you constantly to walk in G-d’s image. While there are people who do unforgivable things in the name of G-d, those are not the kind of religious people I’m talking about. Having an awareness that your behavior matters and that you are an essence of light in this universe is a powerful reminder for many of us to behave with decorum.
When I send my sons to college, should they choose that route, I will remind them as I wave goodbye that the generation of women and men they are going to school with have been raised a new way. The days of being protected because you’re white and male have come to an end. Time is literally up. We are raising our boys and our girls to not look away when injustice is done.