A couple of remarkable things happened last week. Yes, I’m talking about the heated, contested, and often disheartening confirmation battle concerning Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
A friend of mine suggested that hope is blooming in the midst of this clusterfuck. I wonder. I have to admit, that I felt very little hope on Thursday as I listened to white men explain that they believed “something had happened to Dr. Blasey Ford,” but that there wasn’t enough corroborating evidence to indict Brett Kavanaugh.
It certainly isn’t necessary for me to cover the variety of ways these statements laid bare the republican senators’ craven determination to confirm Kavanaugh. That an indictment isn’t necessary in a job interview is only one of the ways they sought to cloud the issue at hand which is simply this–he lied.
Last week, as the confirmation battle heated up, I began reading Rebecca Solnit’s new book, Call Them By Their True Names. Solnit writes, “Language can erase, distort, point in the wrong direction, throw out decoys and distractions. It can bury the bodies or uncover them.”
I like to read with a pencil in my hand because I can underline and circle and star words, sentences, or passages that strike me. This is one I circled, underlined, and starred.
Solnit’s assertion about language and the nefarious ways we use it drives a stake into the republican’s and Kavanugh’s attempt to not only side-step, but to confuse the issue.
Kavanuagh lied in a variety of large and small ways. That lying coupled with his outrageous and partisan opening statements and his utter disregard–no, his complete contempt–for the democrat senators on the committee disqualify him for a job of such magnitude.
So where’s that hope?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Because I want to find it.
Back in 2004, still smarting from the election that found George W. Bush continuing to occupy the White House (do you remember the scream that canned Howard Dean’s nomination–boy those were the days), I picked up Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While. It’s a thick book of essays subtitled, A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear.
The book includes a short excerpt from a longer work by Václav Havel. Havel’s words are where I found the definition of hope that rings most true. It’s the “hope” I cling to.
Hope . . . is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Each time I recopy these words, I’m buoyed by the idea that hope isn’t optimism. I want to remember that. And when I do, I can make out the hope my friend was speaking of.
Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony epitomizes this sort of hope. She did the right thing, not because it would turn out well, but because it made sense–sense in her worldview of what is right and what is wrong.
Those women who confronted Jeff Flake. They gave their testimony in a public place because it was right that their voices be heard.
The women who blew up Chris Coons’s phone. They stood to gain nothing from sharing, but they shared because information is important.
That’s where I see hope.
Not so much in the necessary bi-partisan maneuverings of Flake and Coons. Sure, they did the right thing, but I’m tired of the optics–two white guys saving the day.
I don’t intend to downplay the importance of their actions. I’m grateful as hell. If nothing else, the FBI investigation offers a slight reprieve. But, and it’s a big but, there would have been no action without the concerted effort of women determined to be heard.
Not just Dr. Blasey Ford, although her testimony blew me the fuck away. But all the women who’ve been speaking truth to power. Their refusal to shut up is contagious. Their voices rise as I write.
May the cacophony continue!