The Burden of Proof

You probably know by now that I have basically eschewed politics, given the finger to both sides, and hunkered down as a spectator to what I think has become the XFL of global politics. What that allows me is the freedom to watch it without having a team, the same way I watch the NFL after about the third week of the Texans.

So I have vacillated heavily on the whole Kavanaugh/Ford thing.  For a big chunk of the hearings I just watched. Then Dr. Ford talked and I believed her. Then, on top of that, I decided I really didn’t like him. I argued it strongly in a conversation with my brother. Then I caught myself, and realized that I need way more information to draw any sort of actual conclusions.

Of course you need more information. That’s why people wanted the hearing postponed to begin with. But it also occurred to me that they’re both telling the truth.

It’s vitally important that I pause and make something clear about where I stand. I am very much in the corner of women on this. I believe that there are giant, giant steps that we have to make as men.  It feels like we have a target on our backs, and that’s why it’s even more important to operate with respect and decency than ever before.

We’re not “those guys,” guys? Good. Let’s act like it.

I don’t think the victim of assault or abuse should ever have to be afraid to come forward, and I think that we, especially us men, should lead the charge that loudly and swiftly does what it can to make sure Justice finds her way into the room.

I’m sure there are eyerolls as you sense the coming “but.” You don’t have to read the rest of it. If your mind is made up already, I don’t fault you for it. I’d be respectfully impressed if you’d hear me out, however.

Because we all have a narrative that we tell. We have our own little mythologies. We have stories that we choose to retell, the ones that reinforce the image we want to project. We have the stories that we don’t tell anymore, the ones that make us look bad.

I’m a storyteller, I know how this works. I do it with punchlines, slowly relinquishing the ones that don’t work, and adding to and embellishing the ones that do. Sometimes it is very hard to tell what the original even looked like.

Think of your favorite story. The one you tell at dinners. The one you tell at parties. The one you’ve told literally a hundred times. Your wife rolls her eyes when she hears you start it. “Oh god, Doug. You’re telling that story again?” I bet you don’t remember how it actually happened either.

And they’re never outright lies. We’re just telling the best damn story that we can, just a story about ourselves. It’s why I had some legitimate pity for Steve Rannazzisi  when he was outed for his 9/11 story, or when Brian Williams lied about his helicopter.

It’s not okay to make things up. It’s not a free pass, and it doesn’t mean we don’t get to be held accountable, but it is human.

We don’t really remember anything.  We only remember the story we continue to tell about it.

And the thing about that statement is that it applies to both of them.  I found Ford incredibly sincere. I don’t doubt her story at all. She’s had 36 years to live it in her head. I believe that she told that committee exactly what she believes happened.

I found Kavanaugh disgustingly angry at first. Then I realized he’s not a particularly adept communicator. He’s not used to being questioned and his frustration cracked him. He looked like an ass. But I believed that he was being his absolute most truthful. He is sincere in his belief that he did nothing of the sort to Dr. Ford.

See, we reinforce the versions of our youths that we want to, too. 36 years of downplaying how serious his drinking might have been, of blocking out the black outs, of making sure you tell more “just a couple of beers after basketball” stories. I don’t think he really knows what happened back then at all.

We really do write our own histories.

And that’s why we need investigations, and answers to questions. It’s why there are background checks and interviews. It’s why they look at rap sheets and bank statements. Because it’s really hard to believe just about anything any of us idiots ever say.

It’s why we have to find a way to make it worth it for victims to come forth early. I don’t want these guys on the street, and I cringe at the thought of someone carrying that for nearly four decades.

But we cannot let our system devolve into whatever this is right now. I struggle with this because I don’t want to see Kavanaugh confirmed. Or I wouldn’t if I still took sides. I disagree with so much of his policy and I don’t think too many of his personal views match mine, but that can’t make me blind to what I see.

This cannot be the way we let our branches of government operate. So this is where that big “but” comes in. We also cannot allow the reckless destruction of a person based solely on “belief.”

I love you guys, but faith is not enough.

I find it funny that it’s usually the religious Right who lives a life of faith. “I don’t need proof! I just know. Look around! Can’t you tell?”

And the more scientific Left yells about the futility of such faith and other intangibles, and demands proof. “I don’t care what you believe! That’s not science. Show me the facts!”

Except here. And that’s what scares me.

My statement that I stand with women still stands. If you come to me, I will take you at your word. I also think that extreme circumstances call for at least reasonable questions. A Justice appointment is a rare moment in politics where you can land a semi-permanent, or at least decades long, win for your party.

They’re vital.

To act as if evidence is irrelevant in an accusation like this is utterly insane and irrational.

Whichever side you’re on, you have to admit that it’s an egg you’ll never get back in its shell.  Kavanaugh is forever tainted by this, even if he ends up exonerated by the committee.

And that’s why I’m scared. I don’t mean for myself specifically, but for all of us in general. We don’t want to find ourselves in a place where we’re guilty until proven innocent, where, even if you win, it’s hollow and useless since it only comes after you’ve been stripped of what you had.

And I know all the numbers, and they say I shouldn’t be worried.

I know that the FBI puts the number of false accusations (after investigation) at 8%.  It doesn’t seem like a huge percentage. But I also know the Duke lacrosse story and the one from the University of Virginia. And I do know that, especially when things of this magnitude are at stake, the burden of proof should be there.

It’s absurd to suggest otherwise.

I don’t mean the plethora of women that these things regularly happen to. But when there’s motive? A mother trying to win custody of her children? An overzealous corporate executive? A major swing in the make up of our nation’s highest court? The only thing preventing it is individual morality, and that’s just not a rack I’m comfortable hanging my hat on.

And you shouldn’t be either.

I don’t know how we fix it. I don’t. I don’t like pointing out problems without offering solutions. I know that I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to help. I don’t require evidence to be your friend and to help you. I won’t question you at all. If you tell me what happened, I will listen and I will believe you.

The law does require evidence though, and it should. All three branches of our government should in everything they do.

I just want to always walk logically into my own views and beliefs, and I definitely don’t want to be even partially complicit in ruining someone’s life or making it more difficult, be that the victim of a crime, or the potentially falsely accused.

We are better than whatever we have been these past few weeks, and that’s exactly the kind of thing I have to believe without evidence.

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