by Kaya Garza
Image via Consequence of Sound
Earlier this year on July 9th, President Donald Trump elected Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the new Supreme Court nominee after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement.
This created quite a tempestuous political frenzy, as opposing parties raised their concerns over the possible rescinding of landmark case Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh‘s nomination subsequently made America strongly polarized, brewing a harsh storm of altercations concerning the upcoming midterm elections this November.
But allegations of sexual assault against the longtime judge have made Kavanaugh not just a nominee, but America’s newest pinnacle of notoriety and scandal.
The first allegation was attested by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a Californian psychology professor, through a letter sent to democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She claimed that Honor Brett Kavanaugh sexually and physically assaulted her when they were in high school at a party. She requested that Senator Feinstein keep it a private letter. After a series of confirmation hearings and arguments between Republicans and Democrats, Sen. Feinstein released Dr. Ford‘s letter. The New York Times picked it up rather quickly, and soon the world began to hear about it.
Kavanaugh denied these allegations. Allegations detailed by Dr. Ford very explicitly; events that she said made her fear for her life. She precisely recalled that he pinned her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothing, and covered her mouth so no one could hear her scream.
Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally“ denied such events ever took place.
These weren’t the only allegations: Deborah Ramirez, a women who claimed they went to school together, said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her despite her disdain. Another woman claiming to have known him in the 80s declared him to be unfit for the Supreme Court Justice position, detailing events of gang rape and violence. Neither of these allegations or any others have been investigated.
To any inquisitive young American, events like these appear to be critical, and that, on any other day politics never feel this urgent. Dozens of students have pre-registered/registered to vote, shared opinionated posts on nearly every social media realm, some even outraged enough to call Utah’s senators and urge others to as well. In my time researching this issue, I’ve seen careful examinations everywhere I look; precise dissections of both Ford and Kavanaugh‘s statements dominated the right and left sides of the political spectrum. A deep mistrust for the government had also began to emerge: people asked whether or not our country is prepared to uphold justice.
Although Dr. Ford‘s lawyers asked for a FBI investigation, it didn’t supervene. The Senate Judiciary Committee then requested that both Ford and Kavanaugh testify in front of the panel and quite frankly the world and its descendants.
On September 27th, the testimonies were finally commenced. Dr. Ford stood before over a dozen senators, attorneys, journalists and lawyers. She quietly described her traumatic experiences with sincere caution.
“I am here today not because I want to be,” she said, her voice shaking slightly. “I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
When asked if the events at question have ‘destroyed’ her family, she timidly responded that they were just fine.
Dr. Ford also clarified psychological damage done to the brain after traumatizing events, and when given questions she could not remember exact details to, she stated that she simply could not remember. Not a mince of hesitation but was detectable in her tone. It seemed as though her confidence carried her through, filled in all the gaps.
Senators like Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) diligently defended and heroicized her for her sacrifice.
“You are opening up to open air hurt and pain that goes on across this country. And for that, the word I would use, it’s nothing short of heroic,” Booker stated.
Ruffling the ever so stringent feathers of American politicians, the mood shifted once it was time for Kavanaugh’s testimony.
“Eleven days ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing a serious wrong more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, unequivocally, and categorically. The next day, I told this Committee that I wanted to testify as soon as possible, under oath, to clear my name,” he began.
Kavanaugh spoke about his childhood, his treasured memories with his dad, his hard work in high school. He got sincerely and acutely emotional; he sipped his water every chance he got, as though he couldn’t avoid crying without it. Although to him it must’ve felt like so many were opposed to him, senators like Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) fought Kavanaugh’s combatants like a soldier.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy,“ he spat.
Some important things to note are that the testimonies were not apart of a court hearing, no one violated the Constitution, and that Kavanaugh cannot be convicted.
To support Dr. Ford, one could point out that she had told over a dozen people about the assault, roommates and friends of Kavanaugh explained he did in fact become aggressive when drunk, his cryptic yearbook references didn’t help, and she passed a polygraph test.
On the flipside: it took her a long time to come out about it, Kavanaugh‘s calendars indicated his apparent absence during the events in question, and that dozens of colleagues came forward to defend his character. How could he, after years of public service, be capable of such atrocities?
There were no bipartisan conclusions after these testimonies, and an FBI investigation was called by the President in partial thanks to Sen. Jeff Flake (Arizona) for his change of heart when facing women challenging his vote.
A woman named Ann Maria Archila cornered the cordial senator, all while being recorded, said: “On Monday, I stood in your office. I told you of my story of my sexual assault,” her voice quivering. “I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me. You’re telling all women that they don’t matter.”
Although the Senator didn’t say much, something shifted. He considered more carefully what was before him, and his power in the matter. Archila and another woman in the elevator, Maria Gallagher, have been fighting ever since— even after the confirmation.
I decided to sit down with both Attorney/Teacher Tim Heise, who, by a slight margin, favored Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony.
“How do you think this situation was approached?” I asked a forethoughtful Heise. He pondered on the question carefully before answering.
“Since it isn’t a court of law, it’s mostly just political theater. This isn’t a court hearing, it would be very different if so. I don’t have any trust in Congress through these proceedings. It reminds me of Clarence Thomas,” Heise said.
I nodded attentively and further asked if he thought either testimonies were credible.
“Well,” he paused. “Both have the right to be questioned in a court of law. That isn’t happening. I don’t think it was very credible.“
“Do you think an FBI investigation is necessary?“
“Yes. But I also don’t think there’s much to investigate. Although I find her to be trustworthy, I don’t think the polygraph was enough on her part.“
Heise explained that false accusations concern him, and that naturally, sexual assault should be taken seriously. But he didn’t know how this might change sexual assault cases in the future.
“I think the media limbo is irritating. The whole world is watching. The amount of vicious political speech and divide is absurd, but I don’t think it’ll change upcoming elections much. The parties have been divided for a long time. I hope Utah’s senators take middle ground.“
“I favor Kavanaugh but only by a slight margin. Although I respect women who don’t come forward sooner, it would’ve made her more credible.“
One last question, the one I deem to be most important: “What would you hope for students? How should they approach this, and situations like it?“
“I encourage them to question everything,“ he states firmly. “They shouldn’t rely on media or politics. Know who you are because everything will always be this confusing, and government lies. No matter what happens, I don’t like the outcome. Someone’s life is ruined, both possibly.“
To counterbalance this articulation, I also sat down with someone of an opposing view, Historian Amy Holt.
“How do you think this situation was approached?“ I asked her. She answered very precisely, with all of my questions— I knew she had taken the time to formulate how she felt.
“I do think it was fair. I think both sides were taken seriously. I also think she was very credible. And to him, nothing was out of the ordinary. I think he discredited himself when he answered questions about his yearbook, he wasn’t forthcoming at all.”
“Do you think the investigations are necessary?”
“Absolutely. Everyone should think so.”
After asking her if she thinks this’ll change politics, she explained that #MeToo definitely aided this era’s confrontation with sexual assault. She’s glad that it’s inspired women to come forward, especially when it concerns important positions like the Supreme Court Justice.
She also mentioned that she’s ashamed with senators who voted without thinking, carelessly forgetting to invest time and consideration. Things like this should always be taken seriously.
And lastly, I asked: “What should students and voters do when facing such issues?”
“Vote. Get all information. Don’t rely on your parents, you’re all old enough to form your own opinions.”
In the days during the investigation leading up to the final vote, President Trump expressed his opinions to a Mississippi rally, saying: “I had one beer. Well, do you think it was — nope, it was one beer. How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know.”
Trump wasn’t the only person against Dr. Ford, as dozens of predominantly Republican senators and congressmen dismissed her statements because she could not recall every detail.
This has altered our view on sexual assault forever. It’s raised questions like:
“What if that were me?”
“What do we do if this happens again?”
“Since it’s so hard to prove, who do we trust?”
Every American should asked themselves and their government these questions.
On October 4th, the FBI investigation was released to the Senate Judiciary Committee. After a thorough evaluation, the final vote was held.
Two days later, the astringent partisan aggravations came to a halt, when Kavanaugh won the vote 50-48.
This pariah of a man was sworn in the day after as the United States Supreme Court Justice. His wife and daughters stood beside him as he placed a hand on the Bible and the other in air. Outside, indignant protestors bellowed their lamented sentiments with posters and fists in the air over what must’ve felt like betrayal.
Never have I seen so many people of all collars and cultures know so much about a “political“ case like this. Never have I seen so many people educate themselves on an issue of such gravity, nor have I seen such a stark divarication.
I asked some students how they felt about the whole debacle: the allegations, testimonies, and whether or not they agree with the Senate vote that confirmed Kavanaugh.
Senior Brendan Southern was among those who don’t agree with the confirmation.
“I don’t think Dr. Ford is lying. It’s difficult though, because it’s so hard to prove and it’s been so long. Despite all that, I don’t think he should’ve been confirmed, based on his demeanor and actions before the Senate.“
Another thought to consider is one coming from Junior Ethan Hadlock, stating very empathetically:
“I feel if he was guilty, he definitely shouldn’t be appointed. It’s serious. I believe Dr. Ford did experience something. But I don’t think he did it. There just wasn’t enough evidence.“
I ask you to use your newly equipped knowledge, to avail your American obligations. Consider how this case may affect the future, your descendants. Ponder on your voice, your place in democracy. Consider whether or not our senators voted in the best interest of our country. Consider every angle and ask what’s right, because this concerns the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land.
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
– George Washington, 1737