“Wait,” my mom said over the phone from her home in rural Indiana one minute after beginning our weekly conversation. She was distracted by something. A few seconds later, she said, “Sorry, I was watching Kavanaugh defend himself.” There was an air of triumph in her voice that made my stomach drop.
“No,” I said from my urban D.C. apartment, a place that simultaneously does and does not feel like worlds apart from my hometown. “We are not having this conversation. This is why I didn’t feel like calling tonight. I knew I would just get upset.”
“What?” she said, surprised. “Let’s not talk about it, then.”
I paused. There was something I needed to say. “I am just going to add one thing, and then we’ll drop it. Imagine if this was me, mom. Imagine if I had gone after that guy who assaulted me. The same thing would have happened to me.” I felt my throat tighten. “No one would have believed me.”
“Oh, honey,” she said. “I know. You’re right. Women always pay the price for these things. No one ever believes them.”
Reconciling that these two statements came from the same person—the support toward Kavanaugh and the agreement with me—has been something I have been dealing with since Trump was elected. Since many members of my family cast their votes for him.
On the one hand, my liberal cohort tells me that my family is at best ignorant and ill-informed, and at worst inhumane and immoral. On the other hand, I know my mom as a woman who, after I was assaulted, declared that she and my brother were going to hop on a plane and come kill the guy (figure of speech, of course). She was the woman who did not blame me, the victim, for one second.
I had expected her to say it had been a bad call to go to a guy’s apartment after the 3rd date. Instead, she said, “You could have gotten ice cream with him 100 times and he still might have done this.” Her response was a salve that started the healing process, and I will never be able to thank her enough for her kind words.
Watching the testimonies was like witnessing America as a whole, boiled down into a Senate-shaped can of condensed milk and put on a shelf for the world to see. Phrases like “grandstanding from the other side of the aisle” and “colleagues from the other side are accusing [us] of…” were stated from both the Democrat and Republican camps. Kavanaugh himself, who is a registered Republican but first and foremost a judge who is supposed to remain impartial, said:
Thanks to what some of you on this [Democrat] side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to teach again. Thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again.
The only person who spoke on the divisions, to my great relief, was also a Republican, Senator Flake:
I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side… This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence.
The split that Flake spoke of felt like a chasm in my heart. Then I saw a Facebook post by a friend who said he would prefer not to interact with or be acquainted with anyone who thought that Dr. Ford’s testimony was a lie. He said that these views are cruel and inhuman and the people who think this way are not worthy of association. And many of his friends agreed with him.
I cried quietly at my desk. This friend was talking about the people who raised me—who pulled my loose baby teeth when I was too afraid, who stuffed my Christmas stockings, who attended my tennis matches and dance recitals. Were they unworthy, cruel, inhuman? How could I reconcile this?
I don’t have any answers to my own problems, let alone the ones plaguing the country. All I can say is that deep down, where it matters, I know it is unhealthy for me and my fellow countrymen to isolate ourselves from different worldviews. Everything is gray. Every person is complicated. The world is not divided into black and white, good and bad, racists and non-racists, cruel and compassionate people.
“I feel beaten down after watching the testimony,” I said to my mom toward the end of our conversation.
“I didn’t watch it,” my mom said. “I rarely watch the news anymore. I can’t handle it.” My mom had been an avid CNN-turned-Fox News watcher for the past 4 years, so this surprised me. “I mostly watch The Weather Channel. At least they sometimes have interesting bits about a flood or a storm that I can stomach.”
“Same.” I smiled. “I can barely handle reading the newspaper. Everyone is so one-sided.”
“Yes, the whole country is. It’s really bad.”
“Well, that’s one thing we can agree on.” I considered asking her to clarify her views on Kavanaugh, but I needed to remain in the calm. To remember we could be on the same page. To remind myself that above all, we are family.
Until next time,