Courting Public Illegitimacy

Member Group : Reflections

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,” scholarly replied Palo Alto University professor and research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, her voice wobbling, when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was asked by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) to state her “strongest memory of the incident,” something that most stands out and that she “cannot forget” about the alleged sexually abusive encounter she said she had with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while both were in high school in the 1980s, she at 15 years old and he at 17, an incident from which some recollections are understandably blurred or missing.

“They were laughing with each other,” explained Ford, referring to Kavanaugh whom she claimed had drunkenly attacked her during a high school drinking party and his friend Mark Judge who was allegedly also in the locked upstairs bedroom during the assault. “I was underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”

Dr. Ford laid out a scientific explanation for the Judiciary Committee related to her strongest memory of the alleged sexual attack by Kavanaugh and her long-term trauma and memory associated with the incident, explaining that “norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain … codes memories into the hippocampus, so the trauma-related experience is kind of locked there, while other details kind of drift.”

Norepinephrine is “vital to the fight-or-flight response,” states the Encyclopedia Britannica, “where the body  prepares to react to or retreat from an acute threat.” Epinephrine, similarly, is typically released by the body at a time of serious stress.

“The American conservative movement’s long march to install a reliable five-justice majority in its own image is  over,” wrote Matt Ford in his October 6, 2018 column in The New Republic, “Brett Kavanaugh Is the Point of No Return: The Supreme Court justice’s confirmation marks a new, degraded era in American governance,” following the Senate’s 50-48 confirmation vote, one of the thinnest margins for a prospective justice in the court’s history.

Nonetheless, thin as was the Senate’s vote margin and considering the contentiousness of the hearing and the fundamental flaws in the Senate’s confirmation process, Kavanaugh, “a one-man legitimacy crisis for the court,” writes Matt Ford, is now in position, he continues, “to shape the contours of legal and constitutional interpretation for the next three or four decades.”

Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971, American theologian, writer, ethicist, and long-time professor at Union Theological Seminary, memorably stated: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

After watching the opening testimonies of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and witnessing the shenanigans and underhanded maneuvering of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a friend emailed an astute, timely and judicious modification of Niebuhr’s quote: “God, grant me the courage to change the things I cannot accept.”

Ralph R. Reiland is Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, a writer and restaurateur. His email: [email protected].