The market soars, joblessness declines. Trump is president, all’s right with the world.
So long as you are not Hispanic or Islamic or a woman.
The disputed nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court illustrates the male, presidential and national tone-deafness we suffer when speaking about the rights of anyone but men. And the current controversy may not have been brought into such sharp relief had we not elected a president who has himself been accused by 19 women.
That history — vulgar and hurtful and hateful as it is — may have prepared us to recognize the shame in our society and ourselves. Indeed, the arrogance and chauvinism of our president may actually have sensitized us to the harm done by men to women and made us wonder:
After 7,000 years of civilization, how is it we are no better than we are?
Whichever side of the Kavanaugh case one argues — the alleged innocence of his character or the presumed evidence of his behavior — politicians are more likely to be defensive of their politics than genuinely concerned with the accuracy of the accusations or the humiliation of the women making them. Thus, Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “His reputation is an absolutely impeccable one and unimpeachable, in my opinion.”
No, Hatch wasn’t speaking about Kavanaugh. That was what Utah’s senator said in his 1991 defense of Clarence Thomas and his gratuitous defaming of Professor Anita Hill. But it was no more careless than his current dismissal of the accusations made by Christine Blakely Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, or other women who may claim to have been assaulted by Kavanaugh.
He-said/she-said is how the controversy is being dismissed. Many men are asking, “Who knows?” But the more appropriate question is being asked by women: “Who cares?”
The apprehension many women feel — that their long history of abuse by men continues to go unrecognized and unaddressed — finds ample evidence in the old men of the Judiciary Committee. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley still calls women “gals” and Hatch says Ford is “confused” or “mixed up.” Sen. John Cornyn says Ford has “gaps in her memory” and Sen. Lindsay Graham questions “when she took the polygraph.” Which prompted Hawaiian Sen. Mazie Hirono to chide the senators to “Shut up and step up.”
Meanwhile, Trump — the man we elected to be the nation’s defender of women’s rights — wonders why such an attack was not “immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.” This clumsily disguised attack on her and her family evidences Trump to be as ignorant and craven about this as he is about everything else. Nearly two-thirds of women assaulted by men do not report it, even though nearly 90 percent suffer psychological and sociological trauma because of it.
Hatch gives evidence his attitudes are as starched and stiff as his shirt collars. It may be too much to hope for so old and frequently wrong a man to change. But in a Mormon culture that values families and virtue, is it too much to hope for younger Mormon Republican politicians such as Mike Lee, Jeff Flake, or Mike Crapo to be “true to the faith” and take seriously that we may be on the cusp of permitting yet another sexual abuser to take high office in a Republic that is supposed to represent and defend us all? Mormon Women don’t think so. A non-partisan group of 6,000, “Mormon Women for Ethical Government,” a number of whom claim to have been sexually abused, are hoping to persuade Mormon senators to give Kavanaugh’s accusers a fair hearing.
Meanwhile, Idaho Republican Senator and Mormon Mike Crapo congratulates Kavanaugh’s “detailed legal writing in defense of the Constitution.”
It remains to be seen whether Kavanaugh has in the past or will in the future extend that “detailed defense” to women.
Robert Rees teaches religion at Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif., where he is director of Mormon Studies.
Clifton Jolley is a writer and president of Advent Communications in Ogden.