Kavanaugh hearing ignites political discussions

Supreme Court nominee’s hearing captivates students and faculty

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Kavanaugh hearing ignites political discussions

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Friday Sep. 28, it was nearly impossible to go to a class without hearing some mention of potential Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing and the sexual assault allegations he has been accused of by psychology professor, Christine Blasey Ford.

And it wasn’t just last Friday; the roller coaster of Kavanaugh’s hearings has captivated students since the beginning.

Not only are the stakes undeniably high– the vacancy he could potentially fill is only on the highest court in the country, and his presence would tip its ideology further to the right, influencing at least the next 30-40 years of decisions– but the circumstances of the allegation have implications that are poignantly relevant to students’ lives. 

According to Blasey Ford’s poised but emotional testimony last Friday, Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party while the two were in high school.

Thirty-five years later, Blasey Ford sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein D-Calif. detailing her allegations against the man being evaluated for a Supreme Court vacancy.

For senior Erin Murdoch who spent last Friday continually refreshing her phone for live updates, the hearing was an emotional experience to watch.

“It was very upsetting to watch and it actually moved me to tears. It’s scary to be a seventeen year old girl at a time when it’s being questioned whether high school students can understand consent and be held accountable for their actions,” she said.

“The most troubling part of this for me is the storyline that ‘boys will be boys’ and that our actions don’t matter,” said AP Government and Civics teacher Lindsey Arado.

While Arado was excited and hopeful about the way the hearings captivated students, instigating them into following and discussing politics, she also remarked that some of the types of discussions she’s witnessed are indicative of a fundamental discord in understanding sexual assault.

“I think it’s fair to say that we all make mistakes, but the idea that some people think sexual assault isn’t something that a person should be held accountable for is truly troubling,” said Arado.

But for others, including senior Ethan Burfield, how the hearing was conducted was also a significant factor in determining how they feel about the events.

“It seems more like a character assassination than a trial, which is what it should be. It’s devolved to a he-said she-said with no clear winner in sight,” he said.

Senior Zachary Salberg said,  “The fact that the allegations are being brought forward 35 years later only as he’s being nominated seems sketchy to me,” which echoes the sentiments of many who see Blasey Ford’s allegations as a part of a political smear campaign.

“I know that Clarence Thomas is on the Supreme Court right now and similar allegations were brought forward against him in 1991. Now, that was obviously 30 years ago, so the circumstances are different– our world has changed– but I find it hard to buy into the idea that one thing should be the determining factor that undermines 50 years of a person’s life,” said Salberg.

Arado agrees that the world has changed to a certain extent since Hill’s allegations against Thomas which took place when she was in high school. She’s noticed that the Republicans’ strategy in refuting the allegations is not grounded in discrediting the accuser as it was in Hill’s case.

They aren’t really seeking to invalidate Blasey Ford’s story, but to make the case that her allegation is part of a Democratic smear campaign.

But she disagrees with the argument that credible sexual assault allegations should not be a determining factor in the process. “This is so clearly not a trial where ‘innocence until proven guilty’ is necessary for due  process. This a job interview,” she said.

Murdoch also spoke to the psychological effects of fear that sexual assault can have on a person.

“I think that regardless of when an event happened or when someone chooses to come forward, it is important to take their accusation completely seriously,” she said. “With traumatic events, it can take survivors time to come forward. It is unfair to devalue Ford’s story by claiming that she came forward too late. There are many implications to creating an expiration date for accusations. It is a common trend seen in the media that when people come forward about sexual assault in high school or early in their lives, they are seen as ruining the boy’s future, but if they come forward years later, it is seen as too late and they are told the past cannot be changed.”

Blasey Ford spoke to this trauma in her testimony and said, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am here today because it is my civic duty.”

Ultimately, a common thread throughout many student’s comments relates to the dissatisfaction felt with the divisive politicization of the process.

According to Murdoch, “this event has been turned into a partisan issue that has turned democrats and republicans against each other instead of focusing on sexual assault and Ford’s traumatic event. Ford’s story has been minimized by the accusation that she is a pawn in a larger democratic sham.

Last friday, Blasey Ford’s testimony ended with the approval of an FBI probe which took place throughout last week.

As Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s dramatic confirmation process lurches forward, all eyes are on five moderate and currently undecided senators who will either send him to the nation’s highest court or strike down his nomination.

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