This is a blog about raising my autistic child. In the middle of what we will someday look back upon as This Brett Kavanaugh Madness, a lot of people are talking about raising children – raising girls to be strong enough to speak up and/or resist, raising boys to treat females with respect. I sometimes feel that raising Dar is a third Venn Diagram circle that doesn’t really overlap with either of those two. Of course, that isn’t quite the case. Sexual abuse is a scary reality in the sorts of institutions that kids like Dar become adults in. I can barely think about that without having serious severe nightmares. On the other side of the coin, Dar sometimes exhibits rudimentary forms of what might be considered harassment. He likes to play with hair. He likes to be naked. “Dar that’s not appropriate!” we yell. Maybe you can relate to this. In our case, if the yelling doesn’t work, we sometimes have to put him in his room for a time-out. Maybe you can relate to this too. I guess the question is When will he get it? Cause from every indication, Dar is gonna get it sometime around the time when Hollywood stops making movies where characters say “You don’t get it, do you? You just…don’t get it.”
Nonetheless, I maintain my naïve belief that I should live a moral life partly to role model behavior for Dar. Part of this involves teaching him and his brother to respect women…of course. Duh. Another part of it involves keeping up with America and the world. And I do keep up. And I do keep feeling down.
This current Kavanaugh episode makes me think back to that horrible man in Dallas who shot and killed police officers in July 2016. Feels like everyone forgot that incident…when Ben Shapiro recently tweeted near-nonsensically “That’s exactly why you got Trump” and everyone started joking about reasons we got Trump (from Russia to rhododendrons and everything in between), the Dallas massacre got no attention. Maybe it’s my white male privilege talking, but I believe the Dallas incident was a seminal chapter in America’s ongoing story of racial conflict, in some ways comparable to this current chapter about a sadly ongoing battle of the sexes.
We’re really talking about two narratives, or really, four. The “left” and the “right” see the same events differently and will abandon facts to put the events in different contexts. Even calling, say, MSNBC the “left” and Fox News the “right” is problematic, but it’s hard to deny that many Americans are split into oppositional ideological tribes. I wish we talked more about how damaging this factionalism really is to what was once the UnitedStates of America. Somewhere, Vladimir Putin is cackling to himself that his plans are succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.
To oversimplify it a bit, my liberal friends feel that the Senate isn’t listening to a woman, and by extension isn’t listening to women, while my conservative friends feel that the Senate isn’t listening to a white man, and by extension isn’t listening to white men. I see a synecdoche problem from both tribes – the single person is too easily made to symbolize the larger group. And I see that both tribes blame the other tribe for that oversimplified symbolism; they feel their enemy tribe has relentlessly persecuted their favored tribe and forced identity solidarity.
Sure. But then how do we get past this without making Vladimir Putin even happier?
David French said a mouthful when he said, almost offhandedly, that Kavanaugh has united the right. I think many Trump voters had been feeling ambivalent at best about Trump’s behavior, his goals, and his ability to achieve those goals. In a weird way, the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings were a blessing for GOP lobbyists. Kavanaugh combined Trump’s I’m-the-real-victim combativeness with longstanding conservative priorities (read: repealing Roe) with the potential to achieve those goals. You might think McConnell would have seethed at a weeklong extension. I believe he thinks the delaying helps him draw reluctant Trump voters to the polls. But…I’m not sure he’s right. For one thing, every day increases the risk of another shoe dropping somewhere. But the larger problem is that Kavanaugh is like Trump in the worst way: a habitually mendacious member of the silver-spoon elite who pretends to be for the exact same little guy whom he will overtly punish as soon as he has power. Basically, a bait-and-switcher. And now every volunteer working for Democrats can point out that Trump appointed a Mini-Me.
I keep reading that red-state Democrats up for re-election in November will have to vote for Kavanaugh or lose their seats. Really? Can’t Manchin and Heitkamp just say, look, I’ll probably be happy to vote for a different Trump appointee who didn’tjust declare war on my party? It’s weird to me that Kavanaugh could declare himself a victim of Democrats and then expect to be revered as an impartial Supreme Court Justice. Maybe 90% of the cases that make it to the Supreme Court are affiliated with the Democratic Party in some way. Is Kavanaugh going to recuse himself from 90% of cases? I could be wrong, but based on his statements to the Senate he seems a bit more like a “refuse to recuse” guy.
I don’t see why my conservative friends are claiming that his life is ruined. Worst-case scenario for him is a job as a host of a Fox News show that will pay him waymore than anyone makes on a government salary. If you want to be like Trump, you have to be happy with personal financial gain over any other values.
What does all this have to do with Dar? Plenty. I’m planning for his future. That means serious long-term planning. And I can barely imagine his future in a country divided the way it’s getting divided right now. I know a lot of people hate the person I’m about to quote, but I think Thomas Friedman summarizes the problem well here. Among other things, he writes:
When I look at all the people today who are propelling their political careers and fattening their wallets by dividing us, I cannot help but wonder: Do these people go home at night to some offshore island where none of this matters? Do these people really think their kids aren’t going to pay for the venom they sell and spread? Don’t worry, I know the answer: They aren’t thinking and they aren’t going to stop it.
Although I do believe women and I believe Ford, I don’t believe in “points-scoring” by, say, posting Merrick Garland’s anodyne yearbook comments or being over-credulous of Michael Avenatti’s random claims. For me, there’s even a way of believing Ford and believing that Kavanaugh should go forward…because if she’s right and if Kavanaugh had been arrested, he would have been out by now. But…my larger problem is his lying. This is what I think we can’t afford to teach our kids. Acknowledging the pain you caused is a crucial part of moving on. It has to be.
I acknowledge pain I may have caused Dar. On his behalf, I acknowledge the pain he has caused me. And forgive him.
If Dar and I can do this, the country has to do better. We have to find ways to bridge this tribal divide. Most things I’ve seen about the Kavanaugh-Ford circus don’t bridge it. However, thispiece gives me hope. We should always end with hope. Right?