Pop Goes The Political Culture, Week of September 10, 2018
by Rebekah Kuschmider, MPU co-host
OMG, MPU-inverse. This week. This freakin’ week.
If you’re like me, you’re probably getting focused on the midterms. It’s go time and we’re all geared up to phonebank and canvas and write postcards and register voters or something to make sure this upcoming election has record turnout and awesome outcomes. That’s what fall is supposed to be about.
Then we got smacked with news that Paul Manafort is going to cooperate with Bob Mueller’s investigation. Holy shit! That was a plot twist, right? I can’t wait to hear what this guy has to say! And is he gonna say it in English or is he going to revert to the original Russian to detail his involvement in the Trump campaign?
But what’s really weighing on me this week is the story about a letter Senator Feinstein referred to the FBI. The letter, which was sent to the Senator and to Representative Anna Eshoo by a constituent, details an episode in which Brett Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault an acquaintance at a party in high school. Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer detailed the contents of the letter – though not the name of the sender – the New Yorker on Friday.
When the details were revealed, Washington kind of exploded.
Now, Brett Kavanaugh isn’t the first Supreme Court nominee to be accused of sexual misconduct. Hell, he isn’t event the first Supreme Court nominee in my lifetime to be accused of sexual misconduct. I remember what people said about Clarence Thomas and what they said about Anita Hill. I remember and my heart is so heavy for this unnamed woman. Because she must remember all of that too and now? Now she must be so afraid. All I can think about is how she feels right now, how she’s felt these last weeks since the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
She was afraid the night a high school boy held her down and tried to assault her. She was likely afraid in the days after that, wondering what she should do, what she should say. She was probably afraid of what people would say to her and about her. She was afraid of what would happen to her, to her family, to her future.
So she spoke to a therapist instead of to the police and lived her life for the next 30 years.
Then that boy from her past appeared in her newspaper with the words “Supreme Court Nominee” under his photos.
What could she have felt then? Was she afraid?
She knew things about him than no one else knew and she was the only person who could tell her story. And she wanted to tell it.
But she was probably afraid. Afraid of what would happen to her, to her family, to her future.
She has seen what happens to women to tell the tales of powerful men who commit terrible acts. The women aren’t hailed as heroes. They are vilified and questioned and harassed and abused in a million ways. Look at Monica Lewinsky. Look at Anita Hill. Look at the women who spoke about Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves and Louis CK. Look what it took for people to believe the stories about Bill Cosby.
Hell, look at the young men abused at Ohio State and the boys assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. Victims have to climb a mountain just to get a platform from which to be heard.
But she also knows that the only way to share her story is to tell it, to climb that mountain, to find a platform. So she told it. She told two other women, powerful women, women positioned to relay her story through official channels but who could also, maybe, just maybe protect her, too. She told them to use her story but not her name. She gave them the truth but tried not to give away her life in the process.
They did what she asked. They redacted her name and told investigators and the White House. They made her letter available to the Senate as they deliberate. They tried to walk the tightrope of sharing but not sharing too much.
And now the attacks on her credibility are ramping up. She sees her classmates from the time signing letters saying her story can’t be true. She is hearing analysts calling her honesty into question. She is seeing Senator Feinstein and Representative Eshoo being criticized for doing as she asked by protecting her identity. And she knows what will be next.
She knows that internet sleuths are probably right now trying figure out her name. The trolls beneath the bridges of Reddit and 4chan are right now prying into her community and trying to unearth her identity. She knows there are forces are so prepared to exonerate a man that they will cheerfully destroy a woman who dared to speak her truth. They will find her and her spouse and her children. They’ll share her name, her address, her children’s’ school, her relationship history, any arrest record she might have, her work history, everything about her. They will slice open her life and spread it out, hold it to the light and ask the world to examine her and find her wanting.
This will happen and she knows it. And she is probably afraid.
The bravest person in America today is this woman, whoever she is. After 30 years of private pain, she took her pain public. She was wise enough to withold her name from the story but she knows that was just a delay. Soon enough, her world will be different and there is no way she can stop the violation Brett Kavanaugh started all those year ago when he held her down and covered her mouth to silence her.
She may not have changed history but she is a person of great courage for trying.