Just a thought… Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot. [Truman Capote]
Last week when my dad and sister made the nearly one-hour flight from the interior of BC (Kelowna) to visit Rob, Molly and me here near Victoria, we had another constant visitor in our house. Or, more aptly visitors: Jake Tapper. Anderson Cooper. Don Lemon. Chris Cuomo. The anchors and interviewers on CNN.
Despite being a news junkie myself since my teen years when I had a serious crush on CTV weekend anchor (and now Dateline host) Keith Morrison, I was taken aback by how glued we all were to the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s not that the real-life drama surprised me, but that we were all so interested.
I had a great 2017 documentary from Carl Reiner (If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, about 90+ year-olds who are thriving) but Dad watched a bit of it and wanted to go back to CNN. Even though we’d watched the hearings all day, listened to CNN on XM in the car during our drive home from Malahat, and heard about all there was to hear! Nope – Dad felt we needed to explore what other panels had to say about the day’s jaw-dropping testimonies.
At an age when many of his peers are more interested in weather coverage or (heaven help us) Fox “News” my dad has broken free of his Alberta-born right wing leanings to a small but still surprising extent. Not enough that he has anything positive to say about our prime minister, mind you, but sufficiently that he is a feminist in a great many ways who also sees Donald Trump for who and what he is – a lying, philandering, manipulative, loose-screwed con man. (In fact, that would be a rare area where he and his lady friend seem to have a difference in opinions.)
As I muted the overly loud TV several times (Dad gave up wearing hearing aids when Mom died six years ago), my father, sister, husband and I would have what verged on deep conversations about the #MeToo movement, the allegations facing Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during those moving hours in DC last week.
But it was the quieter times when Leslie and I were alone that Leslie’s own experience with sexual assault came up. It happened before she was even in her teen years and she has had difficulty speaking about it for the 40-plus years that have followed. It has affected her deeply as she moved through her life and prompted the realization that as her own teenaged daughter begins involvement in clubs with boys her own age and older, she has to be reminded that it’s good to speak up when something happens. To know that she didn’t bring it on herself. Not to be afraid that she’ll be blamed in any way. That no does in fact mean NO.
Time and again, as we watched CNN and followed social media feeds, we heard (or heard of) women our own age discussing the Kavanaugh situation brushing it off because it may have happened when he was a teenager. We’ve read about people who blamed a young girl for getting herself into that vulnerable a position. We witnessed the same tropes that have been trotted out for generations. Have we learned nothing? Has nothing changed?
When a close male relative, who was the same tender age as I was, offered to show me his if I’d show him mine, I declined and told an older relative. I don’t know what she did with that information, but I’m assuming it was discussed with his mother. Leslie’s situation was different: our mom learned about it when she happened upon (or more likely sought and found) a diary. There was doubt cast on her claim (much more serious than mine, I might add) and to this day, the boy’s side of the family believes Leslie made the story up.
I have no idea – not a clue – why someone would make up a claim of sexual assault or harrassment. The 19 women who were humiliated for their charges against Donald Trump certainly didn’t do so for the publicity. Nor did the dozens who came forward to talk about their experiences with the now-incarcerated Bill Cosby. Christine Blasey Ford didn’t step forward so that her life and that of her family could be endangered and so that she could be called every name in the book.
My own experiences, ones that I can back up with a handwritten daily diary that I kept from age 12 to about 42, don’t compare with those of Ford or even my own sister. But you don’t forget the details. You never forget the details. All we can do is hope that last week’s news events prompted a great many more intergenerational conversations on topics that were long ago shoved deeply into a drawer. It’s time to bring them into the sunlight – what they call the best disinfectant, yes?
Back tomorrow on a lighter note. I think we all need it these days.