Kavanaugh situation raises a question

The dramatic unfolding and unraveling of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination this past week kept reprocessing one theme for me.

How long ...?

I thought it a handful of times as drama dripped – every application of the words unwelcoming and uncomfortable.

How long ... will the political divide and the clan-like thinking of our elected leaders continue?

Watching the dialogue Thursday and the votes Friday, loaded with partisan disparity in the talk, the tone and the final tallying – it’s profoundly painful to watch how individuals elected to serve independently for a set population ultimately serve a party and a machine.

It’s only when you see someone in a lame-duck situation such as Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake do you see anti-machine actions at work. He showed Friday that someone with nothing, in the end, has it all.

Of the many motivations Senate Democrats had for digging deeper into the accusations against Kavanaugh, no doubt somewhere on their hit list is the memory of how the same Republican-led Senate committee historically squelched the nomination process of President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.

The Democrats battled against Neil Gorsuch in 2017. They battle now. They will battle the next appointee. I’m sure the battles are somewhat on principals and policies. But the politics are undeniable.

How long ... is one judged on the sins of their past? How much good, clean living do they have to do to absolve themselves and achieve all that they are able to do?

Assume Kavanaugh is guilty of all that’s alleged by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And assume in an earlier juvenile part of his life, he admitted and was sanctioned for actions against Dr. Ford.

Would this known part of his life have disqualified him from a Supreme Court seat today? Or would his prolific professional life have overcome this societal scorn? Is the disdain for his candidacy tied to what he did or that he got away unpunished?

Humanity struggles with how long to punish.

We lived through it here locally last year with Youngstown State University sports and player/student Ma’lik Richmond. His Steubenville case has parallels to the Kavanaugh allegations.

My hunch is a professionally perfect Kavanaugh could never overcome the burden society places on this.

How long ... the terror of a sex assault?

That’s probably the most important takeaway from this week. And the most haunting.

One Washington Post commentator this week said that next to murder, the pain of sex assault is the most permanently scarring crime to commit against another human.

That statement lingers with me today.

A house is robbed, a person is mugged, drugs are sold and a bank is robbed. ... And on and on. They are definitely crimes to citizens and to communities, each with varying degrees of scarring.

But a crime of sex assault is life-scarring to a soul.

As much as politicians and Kavanaugh will debate all that was on trial this past week, for me, the lasting pain of sex crimes was America’s big takeaway.

To hear Dr. Ford talk of needing two front doors, to hear her three-decades-old detail of the bedroom and still hearing their laughter. ... All that was searing.

She reached everyone – Republicans, Kavanaugh, even our often tone-stoned president. As she spoke, tears flowed at workplaces – even ours. The national hot line for sex assault incurred a 200-percent increase in calls.

I did a search in our Vindicator story archives for “rape 2017.” It shows 170 story files. Our past six months saw us report events such as a Mill Creek attack and a Poland jogger rape.

Scan the national and world headlines, and the incidents are alarming. Officials are now warning of sex attacks on airplanes, led by two incidents in Seattle.

The weaponizing of sex is not new to mankind. But as advanced as we are today, there is a tragic, painful reality that we are not better with this crime. I even wonder if we are worse, given how much more civilized we are supposed to be.

Whether Dr. Ford is a victim to Kavanaugh we may never know for absolute certain. But she is a victim. And her tale ignited America.

When the Steubenville attack happened several years ago, I sat with my sons to explain the attack and educate them of their options, should they find themselves in such a teen-age situation. Absolute from me to them were: Avoid such situations, but should you be in such a place, protect the victim at all costs.

Now college-age, I advised them Friday that we will sit together and watch Dr. Ford’s Thursday testimony.

As they age and leave our house, I hope such stories linger with them as their lives unfold and they choose how to be men in society.

Her testimony should be must-viewing for every high school and college male in America.

How long the pain of a sex crime?


Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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