I’ve Done Things I’m Not Proud Of: Why I Believe Christine Blasey Ford & How I'm Explaining My Actions to My Son by Rick St. Peter
I've done things I am not proud of...
That was hard to write. I graduated from high school in 1989 and I played baseball in college. As such, I was afforded what I would call "athletic privilege." In college, my teammates and I would have parties where the rules were simple: "Dance, Strip or Get the Fu#k Out." Oftentimes, I would be the person to announce the rules. I never intentionally got anyone drunk for the purposes of taking advantage, but I also didn't avoid girls who maybe had a little too much to drink on their own. There was a joke when I was in college that went something like this:
Q: What is the sorority girl mating call?
A: Oh my God, I'm so drunk.
So, I believe Christine Blasey Ford. In a sense, I was there. And I am not proud of it but I need my son to understand times have changed. As more women come forward, it appears Judge Brett Kavanaugh was a serial predator. He exhibits all the worst aspects of privilege: white, upper class, elite prep school, athlete, middle of the Animal House-era, and I think he has no business serving on a bench anywhere, much less as a Justice of the Supreme Court.
So I have been talking to my son about this. And the conversations have not been easy.
I don't want to make excuses, but like any truth and reconciliation process, if you don't face up to the truth, it is impossible to reconcile. Was it a different time? Yes. Look at the popular "teen comedies" of the era: "Porky's," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Weird Science," "Revenge of the Nerds," "The Last American Virgin," which was apparently Brett Kavanaugh if you believe one of his lamer defenses. Hell, even the beloved Lloyd Dobler ("Say Anything") and Duckie ("Pretty In Pink") were basically stalkers when you look at it from a modern perspective. "In Your Eyes" (by Peter Gabriel) indeed.
But it doesn't excuse the behavior. It doesn't excuse the way we (and I painfully include myself) objectified women. It does, however, help explain why Dr. Ford didn't come forward at the time. Who would have believed her? Kavanaugh and Judge would have totally gotten away with it.
This past spring, I had the great good fortune to direct Shakespeare's play "Measure for Measure." It is a difficult play to stage because it is hard to capture the right tone. But what made me want to direct the play were two pivotal scenes between Angelo and Isabella. The Duke of Vienna has pretended to leave the city and he has left his deputy, Angelo, in charge of the government. Angelo is by all outward appearances a noble and virtuous man. He enforces a law forbidding premarital sex and has Isabella's brother Claudio arrested for impregnating his fiance. Upon hearing Claudio is to be sentenced to death, Isabella appeals to Angelo to free her brother. He agrees on the condition that she has sex with him. Isabella, who is set to join a convent, refuses and demands the release of her brother or she will tell all of Vienna about Angelo's transgression. Angelo's response is chilling even 400 years later. Chilling and frighteningly current:
Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil'd name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i' the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein:
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite;
Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes,
That banish what they sue for; redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will;
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
To lingering sufferance. Answer me to-morrow,
Or, by the affection that now guides me most,
I'll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.
I will believe Isabella. And I will believe Anita Hill. And I will believe Monica Lewinsky. And I will believe Christine Blasey Ford. And I will believe Deborah Ramirez. And I will believe Julie Swetnick. Because I was there.
So I will work to be better. And I will make sure my son understands. He will understand why this is personal for me. Not because I have a daughter, or was married, or any of the other reasons men come up with when they suddenly are forced to confront their privilege. I will do it because it is the right thing to do.
And because it is the least I can do ... because I was there.
Photo: Hakwon Hawkins as Angelo, Jordan Wells as Isabella. Directed by Richard St. Peter, Clemson University.