I grew up respecting the greatness of America. My grandparents came here with nothing and against all odds made a life for themselves and their children because they believed in and wanted the freedom this country promised.
But freedom has a price - sometimes one that is almost too much to bear. In the last three months we have seen the best and worst of our democracy in action. A woman who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse was urged to "tell her truth". And she was given that opportunity, albeit in a public forum she did not want.
Her freedom to have privacy in dealing with an experience that takes unimaginable courage and is something that only other women who have been through it can understand was taken from her as ruthlessly as the way she says she was violated all those years ago. It was perpetrated by someone who decided his/her political agenda was more important than Dr. Ford's pain, personal life and healing process. Someone who is a coward who refuses to admit to such a despicable act.
Democrats had no trouble expressing their outrage at the nominee and his presumed crimes. Where was their indignance about this betrayal of Dr. Ford's trust as well as the letter from Dr. Ford being kept secret from the Senate Judiary Committee and not even being mentioned during the countless hours of interviews and testimony? Where was their cry for an investigation into these situations that if true could be a crime? Republican or Democrat - every American should be outraged at the manipulation of the confirmation process to the highest court in the country.
So Dr. Ford had the chance to tell her truth. But what about Judge, now Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh's truth? When he testified in as intense a manner as his accuser, he was declared a liar by his opponents with no evidence or corroboration of the charges whatsoever and unfit to be an impartial jurist despite his exemplary record. Is there no place for this man's righteous indignation as demonstrated by so many senators on both sides?
What about the countless people who knowing the cost to themselves still came forward and told their truths about the man they have known for more than thirty years. Why for so many senators did that mean nothing compared to the accusations of three women, two of which have since had their claims rebuked and the third unable to provide even a shred of evidence? Why were they believed by half of the Senate and given respectful treatment, while Judge Kavanaugh was vilified and his family threatened?
Apparently, freedom is reserved only for those with the loudest voices, those willing to throw the most mud to see if it will stick and those who were all too willing to use women who actually have been victims of abuse like cards in a losing hand of poker. Sadly, it appears that the concept of innocent until proven guilty which is a bedrock of our legal system is only acknowledged by some people when it serves their side.
But there was more at stake here. A man who had served his country for many years, had a spotless record and was respected for the fairness of his decisions and faithfulness to our Constitution as well as Republican/Conservative lawmakers, and indeed, all men were on trial.
Women were encouraged to take what should have been a civil, lawful protest and turn it into harassment of senators, cornering one of them in an elevator (along with a camera crew that just happened to be there at the time of the confrontation), camping out on their front lawns drinking beer, name calling, threats and let's not forget the shrieking from the gallery during the hearings and voting.
Apparently, the rules and accepted norms of adult, civil behavior don't apply to certain people who feel they have the right to express their feelings in any form they choose, while Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono in a recent news conference indicated that this particular freedom is restricted to an all-girls club saying, “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change.”
Facts and fairness go out the window along with having an open mind and considering the possibility that what they believe might be incorrect or fueled by rage rather than reason - not to mention reinforcing the stereotype of women as being vengeance-seeking liars or hysterical shrews incapable of controlling their emotions. To paraphrase a famous quote, "we have met the enemy and she is us".
But in the midst of the chaos, let's not forget the woman who stood up to countless colleagues and protestors and changed the course of history. Senator Susan Collins didn't shout. She didn't cry. Though in a situation where there was so much pressure and intensity of emotion on all sides, it would have been perfectly understandable. Instead, she laid out the case that would have made the Supreme Court justices applaud.
Facts. Not heated exchanges. Not lies. Just the facts of Judge Kananaugh's record and the evidence that was presented after 36 hours of testimony (Ford - four, Kavanaugh - thirty two) and seven, count 'em, seven FBI investigations of the nominee through his life, none of which turned up any evidence of wrongdoing. She showed the world that our union, though imperfect and in need of drastic renovation, still survives as does the rule of law and the presumption of innocence.
Please watch the video and remember that this is coming from a women, a women willing to take the consequences for her words and beliefs and someone who at that moment was enduring pressure on a level that is hard to comprehend.
How anyone on either side of the aisle listening to this speech could not be moved if not to change their mind, to at least give more consideration to the situation, is incomprehensible. And for this act of courage and attempt to rescue Congress from the black hole of partisanship it had fallen into, she has been labeled online as a "rape apologist".
To the people who have already mounted an effort to raise money to get her ousted when she is up for re-election in 2020, either you haven't been listening, believe the lies you've been spoon-fed by amoral politicians, are in denial or are incapable of seeing reason if you are willing to attempt to bully and intimidate a woman who is standing up for all of us.
And what is the price we have paid?
For all the progress that could have been made and was happeneing as a result of the #MeToo movement and the attention the hearings generated, some women (with the help of power-hungry bureaucrats) have made it that much harder for anyone to come forward. Who in their right mind would want to go through the process we've just witnessed and to our embarrasssment, showed the world? Will they even be believed now that several of Justice Kavanaugh's accusers have either withdrawn their claims or whose accusations were demonstrated to have been unsubstantiated?
And for those of you who may be thinking I have no right to judge anyone, in the spirit of full disclosure I will now tell my truth for the first time in a public forum. When I was 21 years old, I was the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. (Just for the record, it was not where I am working now.)
I was faced with the impossible decision countless women have and will be forced to make. Do I risk losing my job, a job I loved? What if I'm not believed? I had no evidence as the encounter which only happened once took place in private. What if the boss did believe me, but decided the perpetrator was more valuable to the company than I or didn't want to deal with the situation... or worse yet, didn't think it was a big deal?
In the end, I decided to handle it myself. I told the man who was my direct superior what would happen if he ever treated me or any other woman in our organization that way. It never happened again to me, but I have always wondered how he acted after I eventually left the company, not because of him, but as a result of being offered another job.
I still think about whether that was the right way to handle it even though in those days no women came forward. And now, after watching the confirmation hearings I think about the damage I could have and still could do to him. I know his name and thanks to social networks, I could easily out him. But after all this time, what would be the point? Pure revenge? Jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon? I can't undo what he said and did. I'll never forget it or the feeling of helplessness.
The one thing I did learn from it is how to be strong and move forward. And if I could give my "sisters" one piece of advice it would be to rise above the pain and shame. Never allow yourself to be victimized again. Don't stay silent, but don't wait until too much time has passed and puts your credibility into question. And never let anyone decide who you are and how you feel about yourself.
I wasn't going to write this blog. I didn't want to tell anyone how they should feel and how to deal with something no woman should ever go through. Each victim's journey is unique and should be respected.
I also didn't want to return to that day all those years ago and revisit those memories. In all honesty, I don't think about it unless something happens to remind me of it. I refuse to let what happened determine the life I have now.
The events of the past three months have given me a lot to think about and what I realize is that rather than remembering being a victim, I choose to remember that I am a survivor. It is a choice. I hope all women who unfortunately may have to make it, do what is right for them, not what someone else thinks they should do. And that they not only tell their truth, but that they live it.