As an alum of NCS, one of the elite DC schools in the same network as Georgetown Prep, the reality is that some of my oldest & dearest friends to this day are from that time in my life and from the same background as Brett Kavanaugh’s. And no, I don’t mean that in a tokenized “I have lots of black friends” way. I’m talking wonderful men with great integrity who I have known since I was a child who have adored, protected & championed me every step of the way. They are liberal, conservative and everything in between. We broke bread together at each other’s parents’ tables when we were kids and break bread together now at each others’ tables as adults. So, no. I’m not jaded into assuming that class/gender/race or any combination thereof is an automatic & unequivocal indictment.
The world we were educated in is elite–how many Americans know what it’s like to go to high school in the presence of Secret Service? Or to have your class list read more like the Forbes list? Or to have the people who are literally running the world be on your tv one day, and loading you & your teenaged friends up with goodies from Costco the next?
There are a select few American citizens who have a firsthand experience of what that kind of bubble does to those with less integrity or compassion. What entitlement looks like up close in its formative years. But for those of us now on the inside looking out, we know what was common and possible. Asking us if situations like what Dr. Ford describes really happened, and on a regular basis, is like a foreigner asking an American if we REALLY eat a big ass turkey every year on the last Thursday of November.
This is why my classmates and fellow alum from other schools in this network have made a point to be vocal in support of Dr. Ford. We know that girl. We have seen countless iterations of what fuels her silence. And some of us have been that girl. Or her friend. We also know the boys who stepped in to intervene. And far too many boys who fit the profile Kavanaugh is accused of & boasts on his yearbook page–our self-curated monument to how we rocked high school, traditionally loaded with inside jokes that fly over the heads of parents & administrators. But we know the code. We can see the signs from a mile away. We also know the textbook self-righteous, tearful rage & indignation when anyone dared call these particular boys on anything. Especially when they were guilty. It’s not the accusation that enrages them, but the audacity of anyone to challenge the immunity granted by their illusion of superiority.
A justice of the highest court in the land should also be able to contain himself enough to respond in a respectful, non-partisan manner under pressure. This is the temperament required of the position. No candidate outside of the old boys club– that performs its most exclusive rites of passage at these schools–would be allowed the luxury of a tantrum. No matter the circumstance. I am in no way a fan of Clarence Thomas, but he has set precedent that it’s possible for a problematic prospective justice to advocate for himself under immense fire while behaving, as the old folks say, “Like he got some damn sense.”
For those citizens who defend Kavanaugh so vociferously, I wonder if the ones who have daughters understand that the ground they so vocally stand now may be the exact reason their own daughter, sister or wife chooses decades of silence should this happen to her someday. Or already has. Many senators send or have sent their own children to these very schools. How many of them are leaving these proceedings to go home & check their own closets for bones?
As for the partisan vitriol on the issue, at the end of the day the seat is going to a conservative Republican, no matter the outcome. This is not a debate of the position being filled by a candidate that liberals will be happy about. That may be a hard pill to swallow but such is the game and life goes on. That’s what WE get for being so arrogant as to believe we had the luxury of being divided in the last election.
However, a tenure of this magnitude must be granted to one who unequivocally meets all the requirements of the seat. Perhaps Republicans should reconsider holding on so tightly to something that will end up being theirs, in some shape or form, anyway. Kavanaugh blew it. His character is indubitably in question, if not evidenced by hard facts about the alleged assault, then certainly by his own handwritten account as organizer of his friends’ Beach Week shenanigans, and the chorus of his classmates rising to corroborate that he was not truthful about the kind of young man he was in both high school AND college (if you take into account that background checks normally begin at age 18.) If he wanted to, as he said, “defend his integrity” he should have done so by being fully honest about the fact that he was no choir boy. I don’t know about Georgetown Prep, but at NCS & St. Albans we had a strict Honor Code. So much so that we literally had to write “I uphold the NCS Honor Code” on every assignment and sign it before turning it in. A ritual formative lesson that honor is neither selective nor a matter of interpretation. This may have eluded the social scene, but we were doggedly trained to know (perhaps in preparation for future moments just like this) that honor prevails when you’re on the clock.
The reality is, a liberal candidate with the same cloud over his head would not inspire anyone to look the other way. It’s time to buy Brett a beer and roll out the next dude. No one wins them all. What’s good for the goose…
If due process is not being handled in a just way, it is the constitutional right of the people to use their power to ensure full transparency. THAT is American patriotism. Not blind loyalty, the stuff of despots and kings. If conservatives didn’t want this to be hashed out in the press, then an exhaustive FBI investigation should have been allowed. Were he as clean as he claims, it would have been mutually beneficial and spared his family the spotlight suffering his supporters bemoan. In the absence of this, the press has risen to the call. I’m encouraged to find that many of these journalists are classmates from my own alma mater.
Thank you to my alum sisters and brothers, Kate Kelly for your ever-growing series of pieces on this in the NY Times, Alex Lescaze & Elliott Holt for your pieces in Slate, Jason Biehl for your piece from the boys’ side, and my dear friend David Arbury for your spot on post that shows us the best kind of men these schools produce. I’ve shared these pieces for anyone curious to hear what the general climate was like, and from those among Kavanaugh’s classmates–Republican AND Democrat– who initially supported him enough to be silent, but were so disturbed by his misleading testimony that they are now reluctantly coming out. They were proud to see one of their own be nominated, but Kavanaugh himself undermined that loyalty by being deceptive in his characterization of himself. (Unwise because, if history is any indication, he would have gotten a pass.) For them, it’s more about the truth he fails to tell about his past behavior, than condemning it. For them, for a sitting judge nominated to the Supreme Court to lie in this process is beyond the pale.
I take personal solace in the fact that some of the most compelling investigative reporting being done on this issue is by people I know and respect who had boots on the ground. Thank you to the 1,700 alumnae across all these DC prep schools who signed the letter submitted to Congress in support of Dr. Ford–and those who wanted to sign but didn’t catch it in time. This scandal has hit way too close to home, but I’m proud of my classmates and alumnae in our league for using all that top-shelf education to raise voices in defense of a woman who has laid herself bare in a den of lions. With nothing to gain & everything to lose.
I was in high school when the Anita Hill case was happening. I remember being so hurt by how alone she seemed to be. How she came armed only with the truth, to stand before a firing squad. How no one seemed to have her back. I remember wondering how many fathers of girls from our schools were stonewalling Ms. Hill while their own daughters were being backed into corners not always as polished as they professed to be. I remembered all of that yesterday as I watched a crowd full of people roar in laughter about Dr. Ford’s assault testimony in Mississippi. Goddamn.
I’m proud that many of us who come from the world of DC prep schools are flipping that script in this moment. We were trained from small to analyze, assess & come to informed conclusions. So when we stand en masse to say we can attest to the workshop that tailored the emperor’s new clothes, it is no hollow testimony. Our schools groomed us to be leaders. Not followers. We don’t do bandwagons. We do motorcades. Unjust as it may be, voices backed with privilege are most likely to be heard. I’m glad to see my peers–both women AND men–using their powers for good.