For the past couple of days, I have written about the looming issue of teen rape allegations that have been leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Basley Ford.
It has roiled emotions in me that as a 65-year-old woman you wouldn’t think would still be so tender.
But I have always been a deeply reflective person, admittedly with a bit of the drama queen thrown in. Hopefully it makes what I write a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be.
I just read a “Washington Post” article by a writer named Elizabeth Bruenig that I wish I could lay claim to – except she deserves every accolade she receives for having written it so beautifully.
It is the story of a teen rape that occurred in her high school and how justice was never obtained by the victim, even though she reported it in a timely manner.
But mostly it is about the cruelties of high school and small, insular communities and how people come angrily together in their denial to harm a victim even more.
And it is how the gentlest, most vulnerable among us are easy prey for hunters who can kill us with harmful acts and deadly lies as easily as if they shot us.
This story took me back to my own teen years and school experiences. As it takes place in Texas, it also makes me wonder about what one of my nieces may have experienced that has led her to a life outcome I desperately didn’t want for her.
Some things I know. But a great deal I am sure I – or maybe anyone – know nothing about.
She doesn’t know how much I still love her and ache for her to turn her life around. She doesn’t know this because we don’t speak any more.
That is on me. Because there comes a point when you have held out your hand to help someone, and they continually slap it away, you just stop. There comes a time when they do something that – while you can forgive it – you can’t stand by and quietly observe it any more.
Because maybe what they did hits a little too close to a raw childhood nerve that never heals. Even when you are 65-years-old.
Ours is a family dominated by a matriarch who was never my mother, not in a daily sense, as she didn’t raise me.
But her imprint was stamped on me at birth and repeatedly pointed out to me by the parents who did raise me, my grandfather and his second wife. Down to a “sneer” I didn’t know I possessed and a physical resemblance I am constantly told of by my sisters.
As I came to know her as an adult, we searched out the similarities in each other, from the exact same outfits hanging in our closets to our shared love of reading and doing crosswords.
Although I don’t think she graduated high school, as she was 16 when I was born, she was a smart cookie, my mother.
I am a smart cookie too. Except we both had terrible taste in men. In fact, except for my youngest sister, none of us has had much luck on that score.
It’s generational, it seems, touching my niece’s life in very dramatic ways.
Which is a round about way of getting back to the main issue. How, in a society supposedly as advanced as is our own, are women still prey and men the hunters?
What are the biological and psychological imperatives that drive that dynamic so that it cannot be educated out of us? Even at the “highest “ levels of our society?
If we are, indeed, created in God’s image, what does that make God? Why ever would the angels envy us, as my Catholic religion teaches, we creatures with one foot in the material and the other in the spiritual world?
No, I am not blaming God for our fallen choices. Just for knowing in advance that we would make them. And knowing that his dying on the Cross to expiate their sin wouldn’t make living any less painful for us all.
I have always questioned what purgatory really means, if it really exists. Perhaps this is it: knowing some of us are prey, and others hunters.
And screaming #MeToo doesn’t seem to change it very much at all.
I decided this afternoon to watch HBO’s “Confirmation” starring Kerry Washington as Anita Hill.
It was riveting and graphic. I can’t imagine a hearing on the allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being any more so, but this being the age of Trump, anything is possible.
Like Dr. Ford, Anita Hill did not wish the information she shared with Senate Judiciary to be made public, but it was. Like Dr. Ford, Anita Hill’s story had its drawbacks: despite having been allegedly sexually harassed by now SC Justice Clarence Thomas, Hill had followed him to another job in a different government department.
Dr. Ford is alleging an attempted rape when she and Kavanaugh were teens, and she is fuzzy on some details But not the attack itself. That is vivid for her.
In her case, Hill said the harassment had subsided and, like most women, she was concerned about impacts to her career. She also believed in the objectives of the departments where she worked, and she wanted to make a difference.
So she followed Thomas to a new job and later kept in professional contact, even though he had renewed his unwanted sexual conversations.
As I write this, it is uncertain whether Dr. Ford will testify, publicly or privately, on this matter. After re-watching “Confirmation” and thinking back to the actual hearings themselves, I can understand why.
They were a media circus and a political tour de farce on the part of the Republicans. Ms. Hill was referred to in sound bites as “this woman” years before Bill Clinton uttered something similar in reference to Monica Lewinsky.
Then Senator John Danforth (R-MO) spit the words from his mouth exactly as Bill Clinton did
She was accused of using the book “The Exorcist” to make up one of her allegations against Thomas. That came from then Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY). The GOP later conjured up a signed affidavit by students that Hill had allegedly put pubic hair – the subject of the Thomas comment – between the pages of their exams.
Mercifully, that dirty GOP trick only came out in the movie.
Danforth later accused Hill of suffering from erotomania over Justice Thomas, a claim he made without benefit from any medical information he had about Anita Hill, but because some random psychologist suggested it to him.
Then Senator Joe Biden, (D-Delaware), head of the Senate Judiciary, asked Hill two days before the hearing if she would be bringing legal counsel. “When would I have done that?” she asked about the rushed hearing schedule that resembles closely what is happening in the Kavanaugh case.
”I didn’t know I needed it,” she went on.
You can be sure Kavanaugh is lawyered up, starting with WH Counsel Don McGhan, who seems to have a personal agenda in seeing Kavanaugh on the bench.
If he thinks it will redeem him somehow in the eyes of Trump for 30 hours of testimony to Robert Mueller that Trump was unaware of – it won’t.
Dr. Ford also has a lawyer, one of the top in D.C. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the GOP sound bites because Dr. Ford’s lawyer is a woman.
But even having a top D.C. lawyer, you can understand why Dr. Ford is reluctant to testify. It will be brutal – another rape, only this time of her character, integrity, honesty and identity.
Kavanaugh, as a white man, will not have Thomas’s blustering, accusatory statement that he was being “lynched” by Hill’s allegations and members of the media and Senate Judiciary.
It was a statement that stunned at the time.
If Kavanaugh does not continue to emphatically say “no, wasn’t me, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he can fall back on “it was a long time ago, I don’t remember such an incident,” which I think he is currently testing out.
Either way, there are only three conclusions:
He didn’t do it;
He did it, but was potentially so drunk he cannot remember;
He remembers exactly what he did, and he is now lying.
I wonder how far out on the limb the GOP will go this time to try to paint “this woman” as either having a political agenda or as being so traumatized she is “mixed up,” as Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) so “generously” allowed.
Will Kavanaugh’s words, however far removed from “lynching” they may be, weigh more than hers?
Will Dr. Ford be victimized another time – as Anita Hill surely was 27 years ago – and at a time when #MeToo carries a weight of its own?
We shall have to see which way the scales tip this time.
In fact, I have seen at least one of the cast of characters before – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). He wasn’t very good in the role in 1991. He was no better in it today.
His comments were tone-deaf and anti-female then. They were the same today, when he dared to postulate of a woman who claims Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school that she was “mixed up.”
Because after all, Kavanaugh had grown to be such a man of sterling character and integrity today. Surely that mattered more than the nearly 30 years of memory she has harbored about the incident. At least, in Hatch’s opinion, Kavanaugh MUST be believed because, well, Hatch knows him so well.
But this woman – whom Hatch has NEVER met – she cannot be telling the truth.
Does Senator Hatch sincerely think a woman can be mixed up about nearly being raped. Sincerely?
Can he not imagine a drunk, 17-year-old boy trying to clumsily force himself upon a teenage girl at a bedroom at a party? Can he not imagine a man being considered for a Supreme Court vacancy might want to vociferously deny it happened? Is it possible Kavanaugh seriously doesn’t remember himself and is the one who is “mixed up?”
I remember the excruciating detail of what Anita Hill had to say about Clarence Thomas in hours of televised hearings. I watched it all unfold. And because of my own professional experiences, I believed her.
I knew how I had been treated in the workplace by men just as professional as Thomas. I know what they said to me. I know what they said in lies about me. I know what was said was not true.
That is why I believed Anita Hill. That is why I am sympathetic to Dr. Ford’s assertions about her experience with Brett Kavanaugh.
It is why I think Orrin Hatch is “mixed up.” It is why I think Kavanaugh is scared and not telling the truth.
Or he possibly was so drunk himself, he doesn’t remember that night.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if once, just once, the man said you’re right. I was drunk. I was being a jerk. I am so sorry I did that to you. It is not who I am today.
He would be a judge worth voting for.
Brett Kavanaugh has already shown he is not that man.
Today marks my first year anniversary of this blog site.
With just 7 hours left, I renewed the site for another year.
While I haven’t consistently blogged every day, I have built up a fairly large body of work this past year.
My content has been classified as Social/Political/Religious Commentary.
If you have read my writing, you will know I am:
No fan of Donald Trump. From the beginning of his campaign, I did not see him as qualified by background, experience or temperament to be President. His Presidency has only further cemented my opinion, and I see him as an existential threat to the Republic, its democratic ideals and perhaps its existence. The economy was already recovering without him, thanks. Any other Republican would have had his results.
I am very disappointed by the GOP I once reliably voted for. In fact, I had planned to vote for Jeb Bush in 2016. I would have settled for Rubio. But my vote for Hillary had to be cast, because to vote any other way would have been a vote for Trump. That I refused to do.
I am not as politically complacent as I once was. While I voted for McCain and Romney, my world did not come crashing down around me because Barack Obama was President. In fact, I have a better appreciation of him as President in hindsight. But then, Trump projects a very large mirror in which to better admire Obama.
I am a moderate voter. This is true whether I cast a Republican or a Democratic vote. Our government was not designed for any one party to have too much power. It only works when there is bipartisan agreement. We are too large and diverse a country to operate on any other basis. I know “centrism” is not a popular political place to be. But it is the only place that works in the long haul, IMHO.
I am a Catholic convert. I believe in a personal relationship with Christ made more intimate through the Eucharist. I have learned to appreciate Mary’s role within that relationship. The “Litany of Loreto ” and the “Divine Mercy Chaplet” are my favorite rosaries to pray. I believe in Divine Mercy and Grace. Mary Magdalene is my patron saint. I do not worship the Pope, although I honor him as Vicar of Christ’s Church. I am outraged and saddened by more revelations of sex abuse allegations. But I am not surprised that priests are frail and human like I am. I can only do the good that I can personally do as a member of Christ’s Church.
That said, I believe in a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse or any other criminal activity on the part of clergy. Anyone accused should be put on administrative leave until civil authorities either clear them or win prosecution. If the latter, clergy should be defrocked and serve whatever punishment handed down. If the former, they should carry a presumption of innocence and be allowed to continue serving.
I am very open about my life. My family and friends think I am too candid and active on social media. But this is who I have always been, and I don’t know how to be someone I am not.
So, if my political views are not to your liking; if my devotion to Jesus makes you uncomfortable; if my sharing is too intimate for your taste; I encourage you to find other bloggers on WordPress.com whose work you can follow and support. There are many wonderful writers on this platform, and they all have unique viewpoints and ways of expressing themselves.
For those who have enjoyed my blog this past year, thanks for reading and following. I will do my best to stay true to the things I have outlined above.
If I have learned nothing else about myself in the past 40++ days of trying to follow this spiritual challenge, it is that I am not good at keeping a regimented schedule on anything.
In fact, I already knew this about myself. When I was younger and a newspaper reporter, I was always an adrenaline junkie thrilled more by the next breaking story than the piece still waiting to be written in my notes.
I can say the same for my time in PR and other admin jobs – the regular day-to-day stuff bored me. I thrived on the special projects that came my way. I was the Queen of Special Projects, even if it was something like creating a $1 million staff budget, something I had never before done.
For the past few years, I feel like I have been Queen of Special projects at Church , too, even if they were done through an established Ministry or as the work of a Special Committee.
As I have just joined the choir and am learning to be a cantor, there will be very few ministries I won’t have had some association with since becoming Catholic in 2008.
So I guess following a strict prayer routine not of my own creation had about as much chance of success as my following a pre-organized diet. I have done the latter more times than pounds lost.
Some people may be wondering, with the news about the Church these days, how I could stay devoted to it. After all, I had complete moral clarity when it came to leaving the GOP once Trump became its nominee.
Most assuredly I am angry and heartbroken about the criminality that has occurred in the past and been covered over through clericalism and with the imprimatur of the highest levels of the Vatican.
I believe in a universal, zero tolerance policy on child sexual and other clerical abuse. I do not believe the Church should police itself on such matters. I believe anyone accused should be placed on administrative leave until such time as a civil investigation is done and a trial held. If a guilty verdict is reached, priests should be defrocked, nun laicized and civilian employees fired. It really is that simple.
The Church is not exempt from obeying the laws of society. In fact, it’s morality is supposed to be the basis for those very laws. We are a failed Church in this regard.
But I did not join this Church to worship the Pope or the priest on the altar; I joined to worship Jesus in the Eucharist and now, to console Him on the cross by bearing my own burdens with the same willingness he bore His.
You don’t get the joy of being with the resurrected Christ without walking the Way of the Cross. They are inextricably linked.
This is nothing you will hear in a Protestant Church. In fact, unless it is a mainline one, you are likely to hear any and everything, as there are over 633 Protestant sects in the U.S.
There is one Catholic Church, the one Jesus established at the Last Supper, when he said Peter would be the “rock” on which His Church would be built, the one to whom He gave His Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
It is this same Church that was reaffirmed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
It is not perfect. It never has been. It never will be. That is the point of the Second Coming. We will be judged, all of us, each according to our life led while on earth.
Because we are ALL the body of the Church-including those who have abused the very great power they have enjoyed in Christ’s name.
Jesus – like God – could see past, present and future. Any priest or nun who caused a child in their care harm, any Bishop or Cardinal who covered it up, any Pope who did the same – Jesus saw you while He was nailed to the Cross, and His heart was swollen with sadness for your sin. And He couldn’t breathe under its weight and He died for it.
Just as He did for mine.
So I cannot abandon a Christ who so willingly died such a horrible death on my behalf. Or for fellow Catholics whose conduct I abhor.
And because whether it is comfortable in this moment or not, I am part of the body of the Church. The same Church as they.
And while I can hate the sin, and I have complete moral clarity that I should stand up and speak against it, it is not my place to judge the sinner.
In a civil society, that is for the courts. In a heavenly one, that right is reserved for God.
Senator John McCain’s funeral is one of those public, universal events of history I will always remember.
Just as, when I was a child, I remember watching JFK’s. The way I remember the moment I learned of the deaths of MLK and RFK. Of Reagan being shot. The Challenger exploding. The Twin Towers crumbling before my eyes.
All are historical, cultural and emotional touch points we commonly share. All have shaped us someway in how we feel about either our country, ourselves, or both.
McCain’s funeral made me yearn for the functioning of the U.S. government in a way I don’t know we ever will again.
Not that we haven’t always been a country with great divides. But the bigger ideals on which we agreed managed to transcend them, even following a brutal, bloody civil war.
As a country, we were all finally able to agree that slavery of other human beings was morally bankrupt; that women were people with agency and the right to enfranchisement; that when the entire economy crashes, we can develop public programs that return us to prosperity.
We were able to band together to fight an evil that exterminated six million people because they were Jewish and overcome an imperialism that wanted to bomb us into pieces. In that unison, we went forward to continue fighting for civil freedoms for all citizens, an end to segregation, the grant of equal voting rights, a race to the moon and more.
We have reached for the stars and seen farther into space than we ever dreamed. We have traced our DNA ladder in microscopic manner to come up with ingenious treatments for once fatal disease.
But we have also seen greed, far-flung war in places where perhaps we should not have been, recession, failed housing markets and retirement outcomes poorer than we expected. We still have homeless sleeping in our streets, and people trapped into paying for medical insurance that doesn’t begin to cover all of their need, especially in times of great ill-health.
Recently we have seen our country ban people based on their country of origin and separate asylum seeking families, confining children to cages as if they were animals in a zoo.
We have heard rhetoric from politicians more denigrating, mean-spirited and belittling than it has ever been. We have been failed by those holding the highest offices of government.
We have been cyber attacked by another sovereign country that would – in its deeply cynical governance – be pleased to see our own fail so that it can be more influential and significant in the world.
We have started being unkind to each other based on our political identification. With multiple social platforms, we have found increasingly vitriolic ways to do so.
Like McCain himself, our own country is both grand and flawed.
So it is up to each of us as citizens to acknowledge those flaws, work to overcome them, and help our country be grander still.
Because Meghan McCain was right today when she said America has always been great. Not perfect. But great.
And we have always been greatest when we work together to overcome our flaws.
I continue the interrupted stage of my spiritual challenge. It has been a hectic week, as weeks leading up to three-day holiday weekends tend to be, even for those of us in retirement. Your regular rhythms get rocked.
Of course, that is what this challenge is supposed to help you establish – a routine spiritual practice that doesn’t get rocked by your Labor Day weekend or any other plans. I am challenge-challenged, I guess.
It doesn’t help that at a time I am trying to deepen my Catholic practice, the Church again is embroiled in controversy. Understandably you question your commitment to a Church that has failed spectacularly as an institution so many times throughout its history.
But I deeply believe in the theological underpinnings of the Church. I can no more turn my back on Jesus in the Eucharist now than I could disown my son. It is never going to happen. There is no going back on that for me.
This doesn’t mean I am not critical or saddened in the Church as an organization. But perhaps because I am a convert, I have never had the “awe” of priests that those raised in the Church grew up with.
So the fact that they can be seriously flawed human beings capable of their own grave sin does not surprise.
Also I joined after the 2002 Boston Globe expose that so rattled the Church and began reforms and more inclusion of laity. But I think the Church has far to go in transforming – not its theology or Tradition – but framing those things within a changing world.
And self-sufficient woman I have always been, yes, I think women should be able to play greater and more authoritative roles, including that of being Deacons. If we can train them in their formation (and we do), then it is indeed a failure that we cannot be Deacons.
Please, spare me the Apostolic heritage argument. The risen Christ appeared first to a woman – my Patron Saint, Mary Magdalene. If she can proclaim Christ’s resurrection to the original twelve Apostles, we women can proclaim the Gospel itself. And give homilies.
In fact, I think the feminine view proclaimed from the Ambo would give new dimension, insight and depth to a Church too steeped in its patriarchy.
Allow Mary, our Mother, to proclaim through a female voice to the congregation “Do as he tells you.”
I am not suggesting this as a cure for child sexual abuse that has happened in the past. (Please God, let it be in the past.)
But I do think it could be a part of the balm that heals the Church going forward.
Without listing all my reasons, it has been eight days since I posted anything related to my Nineveh 90 Day Challenge.
So I guess I will instead weigh in with my impression of the “Sharp Objects” HBO series and its ending. (Yes, I binge watched.)
First, I knew Amma had killed her friends as soon as she said she could get her roller skating girl fans and related boy friends to do anything she asked of them. It was just too prophetic a statement.
Amy Adams’ portrayal of Camille broke my heart. She was so damaged yet so capable of love at the same time.
Yet I am not sure how her character was left standing at the end of the day – heck, by the middle of the day – given the non-stop boozing. And she was a little too clear-headed and able to track the pieces, even if she made the wrong picture out of them until the end.
Compare that to Paula Hawkins’ alcoholic character Rachel in “Girl on the Train” starring Emily Blunt. That story played out through an alcoholic haze that Blunt deftly captured. Her character literally stumbles into the truth – not with a clear head, deciding to make herself a sacrificial murder victim.
I was a little slower to catch onto Adora’s Munchausen by Proxy problem. I realized, of course, there was some kind of pathology behind her relationship with Camille. But earlier on I thought it was because Camille was somehow thought to be the cause of her middle sister’s death.
At any rate, Patricia Clarke can give Jessica Lange a run for the “creepiest mother in a television series” Emmy category.
Amma is the character twin of Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” and Camille finding the tooth in the doll house is supposed to be the equivalent in shock value as discovering Amy staged her own torture rape.
And both stories end leaving readers/viewers with the question of how Camille/Nick will go on with life’s prosaic daily rhythm when each knows exactly how deeply disturbed and depraved Amma/Amy are.
Camille’s character seems like a deer caught in the headlights at the end; Nick’s is the deer head mounted after being hit by the car.
Camille doesn’t deserve the ongoing horror of living with Amma. Nick perhaps was a little more complicit in his own ending.
In either case, Flynn seems to enjoy creating twisted, sociopathic characters like Amma and Amy.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful-for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
The Lord is faithful, even when I am not.
There are far too many days, too many times during any given day, when I fail to turn to him in my need.
Yet he is always there, waiting patiently for me to return, ever constant in his nature, ever and always the same.
Growing up in an alcoholic home, it is difficult for me to believe in the constancy of who people show themselves to be.
I loved my father a great deal. But I never knew when he was going to be loving, when he was going to be mildly irritated or when he would be outright vicious and nasty-all over the exact same situation.
All depended on the time of day and how much beer he had consumed.
I was fortunate that I received mostly loving moments and mildly irritated ones. The outright vicious and nasty he saved for my Mom.
Usually she bore them in stoic silence. But once in a while, epic fights would break out.
I remember one summer night our neighbor boy, Tom, coming to our house, grabbing me and taking me outside to stand under the street light because my parent’s argument was so loud and heated it could be heard throughout the neighborhood.
Another time I remember we were driving in the car one night. It got to the point that I couldn’t stand it any longer and I actually screamed at my parents to shut up.
I must have absolutely shocked them because they dropped into dead silence.
These episodes were few and far between, which is probably what makes them so memorable.
Still, with my Dad when he drank, you never knew exactly which side of his personality would show up.
I don’t mean to project my parental insecurities onto my relationship with God, the Father. But maybe it is natural, because my human emotions are all I know.
Still, like many people, I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament.
I want with all my heart to believe as Thomas Merton did that the nature of God is pure love. I try to keep my focus there.
And there is plenty of Scripture that validates this vision of God. Even in the Old Testament.
”But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15
”Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 36:5
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
No, it is not God who is unfaithful. It is I who in my weakness often lack faith.