Innocent until proven guilty

I would think that if you are going to grant somebody a lifetime position with as much power as that of a Supreme Court Justice, you would want that person to be beyond reproach. Instead, Republicans seem determined to ram through Brett Kavanaugh on a standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As I noted in my last post, “innocent until proven guilty” is a standard unavailable to the poor.[1] Indeed, we blame the poor for being poor,[2] the homeless for being homeless.[3] And I strongly doubt women who have come forward to accuse men of rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, only to find themselves accused and slut-shamed, feel that the standard has applied to them.

And if we say that Kavanaugh is “well-qualified” to be on the Supreme Court,[4] surely there are other judges who are also so qualified. Perhaps they, too, should have seats on the Supreme Court. Except that for political reasons, they have not been selected.

And for political reasons, powerful white men like Kavanaugh are entitled to jobs. With a Ph.D., I’m “well-qualified” to teach at the college level. Where’s my job?

Instead, I’m listening to the women who accuse Kavanaugh, including those who have bravely come forward, identifying themselves despite the risks. At this writing, this includes Christine Blasey Ford,[5] Deborah Ramirez,[6] and Julie Swetnick.[7] The story they tell, which seems to apply to Georgetown Prep, the high school Kavanaugh attended,[8] aligns for me too neatly with C. J. Pascoe’s ethnography of a high school in California’s Central Valley (I very strongly suspect Redding), in which the epithet ‘fag’ is applied to boys who aren’t into football or who fail to adequately abuse girls,[9] which in turn conforms to my own experience of junior and senior high school—I, too, was labeled a “fag” because I found it impossible to conform to the social expectations of my peers.

Fig. 1. Brett Kavanaugh. Photograph by Tom Williams of Getty Images, via National Public Radio, fair use.

Further, it seems that Kavanaugh had not outgrown this behavior even by the time he was 33.[10] As I read of his testimony yesterday (September 27),[11] I hear a man who is angry that anyone should speak of those things which are not to be spoken of, because “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,”[12] because to speak of those things is to challenge the “privilege” to abuse women he feels entitled to, like he feels entitled to a position on the Supreme Court.

If you want “innocent until proven guilty” to apply to Kavanaugh, I think you’d better be doing a lot more to ensure that standard applies to the rest of us. Sorry, but I’m just not seeing that.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Clarity on Brett Kavanaugh,” Not Housebroken, September 24, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/24/clarity-on-brett-kavanaugh/
  2. [2]Kristina Cooke, David Rohde, and Ryan McNeill, “The Undeserving Poor,” Atlantic, December 20, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/12/the-undeserving-poor/266507/; Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995); Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability,” Truthout, April 8, 2014, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22958-neoliberalism-and-the-machinery-of-disposability; Michael B. Katz, “How America abandoned its ‘undeserving’ poor,” Salon, December 21, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/12/21/how_america_abandoned_its_undeserving_poor; Lucy Mangan, “If you don’t understand how people fall into poverty, you’re probably a sociopath,” Guardian, January 24, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/24/if-you-dont-understand-poverty-youre-a-sociopath; Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  3. [3]Gary Blasi, “The 1% wants to ban sleeping in cars – because it hurts their ‘quality of life’,” Guardian, April 15, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/15/ban-sleeping-in-cars-homeless-silicon-valley; Tana Ganeva, “5 shocking ways America abuses its homeless,” Salon, September 13, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/09/13/5_shocking_ways_america_abuses_its_homeless_partner/; Alastair Gee, “Low-income workers who live in RVs are being ‘chased out’ of Silicon Valley streets,” Guardian, June 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/29/low-income-workers-rvs-palo-alto-california-homeless;  Rich Gutierrez and Leslie Patron, “Displacing the Unprofitable and Undesirable in California’s San Jose,” Truthdig, April 22, 2017, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/displacing_unprofitable_undesirable_in_san_joses_fountain_alley_20170419; Monica Potts, “Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams,” New Republic, December 13, 2018, https://newrepublic.com/article/124476/dispossessed-land-dreams; Stephanie Thomson, “We shouldn’t treat the homeless like criminals,” Guardian, August 25, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/25/we-shouldnt-treat-the-homeless-like-criminals; Emily Alpert Reyes, “As businesses cite blight, overnight RV parking bans on L.A. streets grow — and the homeless scramble,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-rv-homeless-20180317-story.html; David Whiting, “11,000 sign petition to clear homeless from Santa Ana River Trail; state of emergency considered,” Orange County Register, August 31, 2017, http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/31/11000-sign-petition-to-clear-homeless-from-santa-ana-river-trail-state-of-emergency-considered/
  4. [4]Seung Min Kim and John Wagner, “Kavanaugh vote: Flake, Murkowski back FBI investigation; Senate committee advances nominee,” Washington Post, September 28, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-committee-prepares-to-vote-on-kavanaughination-as-key-senators-remain-silent/2018/09/28/0b143292-c305-11e8-b338-a3289f6cb742_story.html; Seung Min Kim and John Wagner, “Kavanaugh vote: Senate Republican leaders agree to new FBI background investigation of Kavanaugh,” Washington Post, September 28, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-committee-prepares-to-vote-on-kavanaughination-as-key-senators-remain-silent/2018/09/28/0b143292-c305-11e8-b338-a3289f6cb742_story.html
  5. [5]Emma Brown, “California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault,” Washington Post, September 16, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/2018/09/16/46982194-b846-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html
  6. [6]Karoun Demirjian, Amy Gardner, and Seung Min Kim, “Senate Judiciary panel’s top Democrat calls for delay in Kavanaugh hearing after new allegation,” Washington Post, September 23, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/as-hearing-on-kavanaugh-assault-allegations-loom-senators-seem-unwilling-to-budge/2018/09/23/99f3fd3e-bf37-11e8-90c9-23f963eea204_story.html
  7. [7]Maeve Reston and Sara Sidner, “New allegations against Kavanaugh submitted to Senate committee,” CNN, September 26, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/26/politics/julie-swetnick-allegation-kavanaugh/index.html
  8. [8]Aaron C. Davis, Emma Brown, and Joe Heim, “Kavanaugh’s ‘choir boy’ image on Fox interview rankles former Yale classmates,” Washington Post, September 25, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2018/09/25/ea5e50d4-c0eb-11e8-9005-5104e9616c21_story.html; Kathryn Rubino, “Brett Kavanaugh Seems Like He Was A Real Jerk In High School,” Above the Law, September 25, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/09/brett-kavanaugh-seems-like-he-was-a-real-jerk-in-high-school/; Emily Witt, “The Boys’ Club That Protects Brett Kavanaugh,” New Yorker, September 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-boys-club-that-protects-brett-kavanaugh
  9. [9]C. J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (Berkeley: University of California, 2007).
  10. [10]Elie Mystal, “And Now We’ve Moved To The Adult Assault Stage Of The Kavanaugh Accusations,” Above the Law, September 26, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/09/and-now-weve-moved-to-the-physical-assault-stage-of-the-kavanaugh-accusations/
  11. [11]Dan Balz, “A day of explosive testimony results in a partisan brawl,” Washington Post, September 27, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-day-of-explosive-testimony-results-in-a-partisan-brawl/2018/09/27/3be77b18-c297-11e8-97a5-ab1e46bb3bc7_story.html; Jordain Carney and Emily Birnbaum, “Five takeaways on Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimony,” Hill, September 27, 2018, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/408876-five-takeaways-on-kavanaugh-and-fords-testimony
  12. [12]Brett Kavanaugh, quoted in Emily Witt, “The Boys’ Club That Protects Brett Kavanaugh,” New Yorker, September 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-boys-club-that-protects-brett-kavanaugh

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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