Point of View: Looking Back and Moving Forward

"Blacked Out" by Ted Littleford.

This week I talked to an old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in more than 30 years. The Ford-Kavanaugh hearings had got him thinking.

“I want to apologize,” he said. “For what?” I asked.

Susan Lamontagne is an advocate for children’s health and environmental protection. Courtesy photo

This was a guy I had admired greatly. He was one of those kids who earned top grades without cracking a book. He was a star athlete, tall and handsome, nice with a wicked sense of humor. He had been part of the school newspaper and the yearbook committee.

“Do you remember the wills?”

He was part of a group of high school seniors who had written gag wills for a number of classmates. He said the teacher overseeing the yearbook thought they were inappropriate for publication, so the boys printed them out themselves and distributed them. I hadn’t thought about the wills since high school, but once he jogged my memory, I remembered that in an attempt to be funny, a lot of feelings were hurt. Some girls were direct targets. Others were collateral damage. I don’t know which category I was in and don’t want to know.

“We got in trouble,” he said. “Not in nearly as much trouble as we should have, but it was the ‘80’s.”

He apologized again and I told him that I had no memory of what was in them and that it didn’t matter to me one whit, but thank you. And, then I said, “What you just did is what Brett Kavanaugh should have done.”

Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is faced with three public allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. During a congressional hearing last week, his testimony was pitted against that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says he tried to rape her at a small gathering in Potomac, Maryland when she was 15 and he was 17. Kavanaugh’s response was an angry and unequivocal denial. He then proceeded to dodge and deflect questions from Senators on both sides of the political aisle.

After their testimonies, people on the left believed Ford and people on the right believed Kavanaugh. A large group had been undecided that similarly split about evenly a day or two later. So let’s set aside the allegations of sexual assault for just a moment.

Here’s what we do know.

In sworn testimony before Congress, Kavanaugh tried to imply that his yearbook profile was written by others. The next day his claim was refuted by the yearbook editor. He was also asked about some terms on his yearbook page. I’m not going to repeat them here, but suffice it to say that a quick google search or glance at the urban dictionary shows he wasn’t being forthright. He was asked if he drank to the point of blacking out. He responded with, “Do you?” an oddly combative and evasive response and later said he had “fallen asleep.” Several of his Yale classmates have challenged his characterizations of his drinking, some calling him a “sloppy, belligerent drunk.” He was also asked when he learned about the allegations from Debbie Ramirez, a Yale classmate, to which he answered, “last week.” Yet Above the Law, a legal trade publication, has reported that Kavanaugh was reaching out to Yale classmates months before Ramirez’s allegations went public in an attempt to discredit her.

And then there’s Kavanaugh’s calendar, which he provided to bolster his claim that he never attended the gathering Ford described. Yet the July 1stentry, shows Kavanaugh drinking beer at a small Thursday night gathering with three of the people that Ford named.

Despite the evidence that Kavanaugh lied under oath, numerous Republican Senators continue to support his nomination. Some have even said they support him even if he is guilty of what Ford alleges. President Trump this week went so far as to say that “this is a very scary time for boys.”

As the mother of two boys, I beg to differ. If Ford’s allegations are true — and I believe they are — and Kavanaugh is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, I can’t imagine anything scarier for women and girls. The message it sends to them is that they don’t matter.

Fortunately there are some men like my old high school classmate, who apologized for nothing more than writings that were in poor taste. He reflected with empathy, grown and changed with the times. It is people like him who will move this country forward. Imagine if Kavanaugh had done the same. Then he might have said, “There were times I drank to excess and don’t remember everything I did. If I did anything like Dr. Ford described, I am truly sorry. As for my yearbook page, it certainly reflects a 17-year old boy at the time. That is not who I am today.”

But he didn’t.