The question of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appropriateness as a Supreme Court Justice nominee, in light of the accusations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and others, is both solemn and momentous, as is his indignant denial of those accusations. But there seems to be a subtext to his statements and the expressions of empathy by his supporters that I would characterize as, “This is really unfair – I am/he is and have/has always been a good guy.”
I get it, Judge. I think I am and have always been a good guy too. But, unlike you, I understand why others might question that.
Like you, I attended an exclusive all-male boarding school. Like you, during my college years, I was a member of DKE, albeit at a local university with a less lofty academic reputation than yours, but with a similar reputation for the celebration of debauchery.
My era precedes yours by a decade and there are differences in the zeitgeist of our respective times, but they pale in similarity to the consistencies.
So, like you, I spent the formative years of my life in an environment that from today’s perspective, many would judge to have been an incubator for misogyny and a playground for abusers of women. It is a question worthy past, and I have come to accept that while I believe I was a good guy through those years and remain one these many years later, it is not unfair that I be asked to justify that belief.
As I suspect has been the case with many men of my generation and background, the “Me Too” movement has prompted a discomforting survey of my past, having previously been confident to the point of dismissiveness of the idea that there was anything in my behavior over the years that would come within a hundred miles of sexual abuse. My traditional self-assessment was that, influenced greatly by an older sister that I loved and worshipped mightily, I had been disinclined to view women simply as targets for conquest and had been quick to step in to protect young women I encountered in risky social circumstances. After all, that young girl was someone’s sister too.
But, I have had to face the likelihood that my characterization is too self-congratulatory by half. The world in which I lived for those pivotal years was in fact terribly risky for my female peers, and I lived comfortably in that world.
Did I witness crude and unacceptably aggressive acts by my brethren? Yes. Did I always step in to curb those behaviors and protect the victims? No. Did my own behavior ever pass beyond drunken leering and sophomoric crudities and create a circumstance a female peer would have found unpleasant, even traumatic? I pray not.
However, if somehow catapulted into a national spotlight and subjected to scrutiny, were a woman of my acquaintance during those years to rise up and relate her memory of any unpleasant experience in my company, I do not believe I could manifest the righteous indignation demonstrated by Judge Kavanaugh, even in my believed innocence.
I hope I would find the courage to say that I did not recall the situation described by my accuser and did not believe myself capable of the behavior, while freely admitting that the situation described was not unreflective of the time and place. Such was the ugliness of that world.
The price that Judge Kavanaugh and I and thousands of other men must pay for the privilege we enjoyed while striding confidently through that world, whether we ignored, employed or abused that privilege, is that we will always be arguing uphill with regard to our own protestations of innocence. Sorry Judge Kavanaugh, that’s only fair.
Allan Preyer is a sales and marketing executive and a freelance writer living in Chapel Hill.