The week before the vote, I said good morning to my neighbor, who answered, “He’s not going to be confirmed is he?
I said, “Yes, he is.”
She looked horrified.
I was equally horrified, but I didn’t doubt the outcome. The old bulls (as Dan Rather called the old white men who defend power and money) are in control, as they have been since the beginning of recorded time. They were not going to let one of their own go down. So after a stormy but brief pause, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to sit on the highest court in the land, now a seesaw, heavily weighted to the right.
Rubbing salt into this wound, the talking heads say that the conservative base is riled up in defense of the rights of the truly aggrieved, which is to say (white) men, who are in danger of being wrongly accused of sexual misconduct and losing their “good” names.
Republicans reported a spike in contributions in the wake of the hearings, trumpeting it as a sign that the old bulls will be running in the streets, primed to trample The Year of the Woman, and drown The Blue Wave in the midterms.
And yet … as Kavanaugh was foaming at the mouth, the Nobel committee awarded the Peace Prize to Nadia Murad, a member of the Iraqi Yazidi minority, who endured three months of rape and torture by Isis militants. Instead of being shamed into silence, Murad became a witness to evil and a warrior for justice, which may seem like a hopeless cause.
Hope is not defeated by precedent or culture, much less polls.
Things do change for the better even if the change is uneven and so slow you have to look back 26 years to recognize the difference. Dr. Ford’s outrageous ordeal was less lonely than Professor Anita Hill’s outrageous ordeal. Cause for celebration? Not so much. But it’s true.
Remember that gigantic global march the day after Donald Trump’s tiny little inauguration? Remember how the pundits warned against putting too much stock in all that energy. If you’d taken a shot every time a commentator said, “A march is not a movement” you’d still have a hangover.
The Women’s March gave rise to #MeToo, which gave rise to the Weinstein perp-walk and the Cosby conviction. The outpouring of energy inspired an unprecedented number of women — including many women of color — to run for city council, state senate, governor, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.
The Kavanagh ordeal was a painful defeat, but it revealed how much power the old bulls still wield, and just how clearly #TimesUp.
At the massive march in Boston — and at the modest one in Greenville, South Carolina — the refrain was, “This not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” In other words, the fight for women’s rights is going to be a long haul.
But the struggle isn’t really a marathon, which is precisely 26.2 miles long, with markers along the way, and a finish line with a single laurel wreath for one exhausted winner.
We are running a relay, from sea to shining sea and back again, for as long as it takes, and we will get there, all of us, if we trust in each other — women of all races, affinity groups, gender identities, ages, classes and abilities; all of us along with the millions of men and boys who are with us.
This race doesn’t end or even slow down with Kavanagh. Nor will it fizzle after the midterms, no matter how many women and progressive allies (many, many, I hope) are elected.
We have only begun to fight.
Published October 10, 2018 on WBUR’s Cognoscenti