Las Vegas Sun

December 10, 2018

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Where I Stand:

Brian Greenspun: The decency of America demands the truth

“Have you no sense of decency?”

Or, put another way, have you no shame?

That question was put to the indecent senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, by Joseph N. Welch, who represented the United States Army in 1954 when the red-baiting senator was trying his best to belittle the Army for not promoting a close, very close, friend of McCarthy’s. The friend, David Schine, was also a very close friend of Roy Cohn’s who, in turn, was a very, very close friend of our current president, Donald Trump.

The world is, indeed, quite small when it comes to attacking the American institutions that protect us, like the Army. But I digress.

The issue is one of shame. Public or private.

I very recently learned of a friend’s deep, dark family secret that caused an incredible amount of self-imposed guilt for an otherwise wonderful person who carried the shame of a past indiscretion for nearly a lifetime. Its effect was overwhelming and unrelenting.

Only recently did the story come full circle to the point where the inordinate burden of a youthful mistake was lifted ,and the person who bore the brunt of that shame for almost 60 years became something, someone, very new, very different and very happy.

My point is that none of us know the secrets even our closest friends carry and the depth of the imposition on their happiness that occurs as a result of trying to keep secrets that, in the end, will almost always become public.

I am happy for my friend. Life is suddenly beautiful at long last.

I have been thinking about the shame that was prevalent throughout that story and the secret that stayed buried for so long in the context of Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s secret that she carried for all of her adult life — until recently. Even though she tried to keep the events that caused her shame, embarrassment, pain or myriad other human emotions a secret, the truth has been bared for the world to see.

And, oh, what a truth that is!

It is a truth that will affect the Supreme Court of the United States. It has the ability to shame the high court for a generation and lay bare the biases of generations of men toward women who want to scream their outrage but, instead, are shamed into silence.

Professor Ford claims that Brett Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth to try to mute her screams. Today, the Republicans in the Senate are trying to put their metaphorical hands over her mouth again, this time using the rules of the Senate — as they continue to change them — to keep her silent.

The issue is simple: Is an accusation by a woman toward a Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct, possibly attempted rape, worthy of the time and energy of the United States Senate? Or is it just a “hiccup,” as Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., described it, on the way to Kavanaugh’s certain approval to be the next justice of the Supreme Court?

In other words, have we learned nothing in the past 27 years since Anita Hill was crucified by a bunch of men on the Senate Judiciary Committee for having the temerity to challenge the preordained ascension of then-nominee Clarence Thomas, a man Hill claimed was guilty of sexual harassment?

In the middle of the #MeToo era, haven’t we learned anything about the new-found voice of women in society who are finally standing up against all manner of outrage imposed upon them by the male of the species?

An answer could come in November, as record numbers of women have offered themselves up for public service by seeking the votes of Americans across the country. Whether their voices are loud enough to overcome the oppression they feel remains to be seen.

A more immediate answer, though, could come this week in Washington as the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee grapples with the credible claims by Professor Ford that she was assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh when he was 17 and she was just a 15-year-old girl. Professor Ford has carried that secret for most of her adult life and lived with whatever constraints on her happiness that the shameful attack has caused.

Are we going to further that harm by ignoring her story or refusing to hear her voice, or are we going to act like Americans should act and seek the truth. So far, it seems like the GOP senators want to do anything but deal with the truth because, if it happened as Professor Ford claims, that would make Kavanaugh a judicial pariah, which means the Senate would have to turn down the president’s Supreme Court choice, much to the dismay of a virulent minority of Americans and, apparently, a majority of the voters in the new Republican Party.

Like almost every American, I don’t know what happened many years ago between Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh — or, at least, their former and younger selves — but I do know that the charge is serious enough that a few extra days here or there to ferret out the best truth we can find is the very least we can do as a nation.

Professor Ford is so confident in her story that she is asking for the FBI to put her under oath and subject her claims to rigorous investigation. That’s not what liars do, that’s what people do when they’re telling the truth.

To date, neither Judge Kavanaugh nor the White House have been willing to undergo the same scrutiny. Why?

Professor Ford’s secret of her lifetime has been reluctantly made public. The shame, the guilt, the threats to herself and her family are real and a regrettable consequence of the attack so many years ago.

By the same token, if somehow Professor Ford has remembered the wrong man in Judge Kavanaugh, he deserves to be cleared in the public conscience, as does the Supreme Court, which would otherwise have to pack the stain of his shame for a generation.

Either way, the public deserves a clean and complete airing of these charges and not a railroad job that, as best I can tell, is still the order of the day.

We will soon see if the Republican senators in charge of the hearings retain any sense of decency of their own.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.