Friday, September 28, 2018

The hearings—and the listenings

Like many, I have been semi-glued to the judicial committee hearings over the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And today, showered and ready for work, I paused to listen to Senator Cory Booker—and immediately had a flashback to 1954.

We’d recently moved from Minnesota to California, and my dad was the new owner of a small Mobil gas station on Highway 101 in Oceanside. We lived two blocks from the station, and dad would walk home for lunch and watch the McCarthy hearings as he ate. He’d go back to work, but the TV stayed on, and would be on when I got home from school. I remember no content, but remember the smirk on McCarthy’s face as he hoisted a sheaf of papers or a daily newspaper with new knowledge of communists everywhere, and then he would blare at the TV audience in his gravelly baritone.

I didn’t know my dad’s politics at the time—although I do remember wearing an “I Like Ike” button before the 1952 election, and I remember getting out of school and going to Mrs. Drummond’s house to watch Eisenhower sworn in on TV—a first, I believe, which is why our good teacher thought it worthwhile leaving school for the event.

Although I rarely talked politics with my parents, I guess I came to see them as moderate Republicans, which didn’t matter much until Nixon and Vietnam. Today, I believe my parents were caught in a bind—wanting to stick with country and LBJ and then Nixon. We argued over that, but not to any conclusions, and not to rupture.

Unfortunately, I do not remember ever having a conversation with them about those McCarthy hearings. My guess is that when attorney for the Army Joseph Welch rose to say "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?", my father and mother, along with millions of Americans, breathed sighs of relief and thought the country had righted itself, come back to its common senses.

As the hearing today wound down to a vote, one of the Democratic Senators—I think it was Richard Blumenthal—spoke to Christine Blasey Ford’s son: “Your mother,” he said, “will be remembered as a hero.” In five or ten years, he opined, her words and her role in the unfolding development of women’s rights in this country would be remembered; her words and work would be honored by posterity.

Another Senator reminded everyone that the truth would eventually come out—just as it did, I would argue, with the rampage of Senator McCarthy.

And why do I, sitting in my enclave of books about history and Indians in the West, think to use this blog to talk about today’s hearings. Nothing about Indians here… Well, maybe there is. There are so many parallels with black and women’s and Indians’ struggles for fair treatment in our country that what touches one touches all.

And the first step in fair treatment is always to listen—to listen beyond the shouts of the demagogue to the voices of the oppressed. I believe the truth on this matter will come out, and my guess is that behind Brett Kavanaugh’s rants of yesterday, and the alcoholic mists of his past, we will find women’s truths.  Ford’s son will be proud. And if we can hear women’s voices and find women’s truths, we can go back to the men of power who stampeded the Indians at Standing Rock. Go back and add another chapter to the slow drive for fair treatment of the first peoples of this continent.

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