Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a Patriot
Don’t tread on me: This indignant phrase is impossible to ignore on the drive from DC to North Carolina. I-95 is perforated with license plates that tout the age-old adage in the same objectionable yellow that separates me from the oncoming lane, a color that signifies its very purpose is to deter me from crossing it.
Don’t tread on me: A slightly more respected version of ‘you’re not the boss of me,’ and solely uttered by people who think the Confederacy existed to preserve Southern heritage, but fail to admit the only identifying attribute of Southern values at the time was slavery. They prefer to call it state’s rights.
Don’t tread on me: First popularized by our founding fathers, this is the motto reserved for the straight white man, whose anger is seen as more credible just because of his demographic, anger that invariably treads on everyone and everything else.
But when I think of treading, the first image that comes to mind is not the screech of tires as they try to hug the road, nor the soles of shoes that kiss the pavement. It’s treading water that first enters my psyche.
As a kid, I learned to tread water at swim practice, which I attended against my will, and complained bitterly to anyone who would listen. I went because my brother was on the team, and why not just be lumped into someone else’s interests instead of exploring my own? But I digress.
Treading water is simply an effort to avoid drowning. To propel upward against all odds, including gravity and barometric pressure, to stay afloat without holding on to anything, treading water was the aquatic version of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, a last resort if you’re stranded without help.
As an adult, I don’t have to be submerged in water to practice treading because I don’t have to step foot in a pool to feel like I’m drowning. I just have to turn on the news.
Today’s hearing in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been the drop that overflowed the floodgates of my mind, which have diligently held up against the swell in #MeToo mentions since this time last year.
Around that time I wrote a post where I tried my best to answer the questions I had seen amid the surging internet waters that put D.C.’s swamp to shame. It’s almost as if the public psyche has a short-term memory, as we’ve dissected these questions over and over with each high-profile sexual assault accusation.
I’m slightly older and significantly angrier now, so I’ll do my best to calmly divulge my thoughts while I watch Dr. Christine Blasey Ford tread water on national television.
“I am not here today because I want to be. I am terrified.” These were Dr. Ford’s opening remarks this morning, remarks that will continue to haunt me over the coming days — weeks? — that these hearings continue.
Dr. Ford explained, several times actually, because the prosecutor belabored the same points over and over again, that she felt not a political motive, but a civic duty to bare her very significant and devastating trauma for the Americans to see and dissect.
This is true patriotism: to sacrifice everything — her privacy, her professional reputation, her family’s safety — to serve the American public in the best way she knew how.
Never once did she say that her intent was to prohibit Kavanaugh’s confirmation, though we should all be able to agree that sexual assault is a clear exhibition that he is not fit for a lifetime appointment where his role would be to judge the unlawful actions of others.
Instead, she simply wanted to be “as helpful as possible” to the committee as they consider Kavanaugh’s character for this appointment.
It is in no way a sexual assault survivor’s civic duty to relive their trauma on camera for the whole world to see, or in person for the benefit of actual strangers. But Dr. Ford made it her duty, and selflessly rose to the occasion, so that Americans could know of his true character.
Some senators suggested that assaulting someone decades ago has nothing to do with Kavanaugh’s fitness for the bench. This is simply untrue.
The day will invariably come when the Supreme Court has to hear a case similar to the accusations against Brock Turner, and I would like to think that those nine justices wouldn’t give someone like Brock the benefit of the doubt.
Because kids like Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, who are spared from the consequences from their actions — not to mention raised to believe they are entitled to women’s bodies — are the type of people gain the power to let future Brocks and Bretts run free.
As I watched Dr. Ford answer each painful question — even the irrelevant ones, like how often do you fly on planes? And, were you on any medication as a teenager? — while under extreme pressure of anxiety that comes from PTSD, I was in awe of her heroism.
She has been flooded with skepticism from members of the Senate, disbelief from members of the press, and threats from the American public. And yet, she responded with courage at every turn.
Dr. Ford has inspired countless others as she treads these ugly waters so gracefully. She’s propelled herself upward against all odds, stayed afloat without holding on to anything except a polygraph — a test that Kavanaugh has yet to take.
I feel empowered and hopeful because of her strength, but I am also bracing myself for the inevitable ugliness that will come out of these hearings. I don’t want to believe that, after all of these hours of her candid and painful testimony, any senator could possibly confirm Kavanaugh without subpoenaing the other witnesses, calling for a polygraph from the accused, or allowing an FBI investigation to take place.
I was touched by the recession of the hearings today, as women in the back of the room called out “Thank you, Dr. Ford!” over and over, while a member of her counsel held her tightly.
I wish I could say it to her directly. I wish I could thank her for her patriotism, her willingness to share the unspeakable in a sworn testimony. I wish I could tell her she’s a hero — to me and so many others — even if she didn’t want or expect to be.
On Anita Hill
I saw a tweet that said “Anita Hill walked so Christine Ford could run,” and that angered me to my core; I wept for the justice that Hill never received.
That black women sacrificed while white women left them behind is true of every era in American history, from slavery to suffrage to sexual assault. My anger comes out of indignation on behalf of black feminists who were braver than anyone could hope to be, who tread public waters ceaselessly — only for white people to build segregated pools.
Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas.
Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement.
And black women in Alabama voted against Roy Moore. I wish I could list all of their names here, because it would mean more than to refer to them just by their demographic.
But we can’t ask black women to save us from Brett Kavanaugh, because we failed to elect enough of them to Congress. This year, there are 98 black women running for federal seats in November, and 184 women in total running for House, Senate or Governor.
Every single current female governor is either running for re-election, or facing term limits that prevent her from doing so.
So if today’s events inspire you to do something more than just sit behind a screen, please, I’m begging you, register to vote. And then make sure your parents are registered to vote. And your friends, and colleagues. Take your kids with you when you vote, if you can, to show them why it’s important.
Because they can’t grow up in a country where the Brett Kavanaughs let the Brock Turners run free. They should live in a version of America where patriotism like Dr. Ford’s is seen and applauded. Where sexual assault is a bipartisan issue. Where we teach boys not to rape, and believe women when they come forward.