Earlier this week, I heard a few things on NPR that gave me a slightly altered perspective on Brett Kavanaugh: Someone who knew him at Yale said he was always the one standing by the keg hoping to get the girl. “He never got the girl,” this person added.
A friend who also knew him from Yale spoke of how surprised he and his friends were to learn at graduation that good old Brett had done quite well, a fact he attested to last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through his whole student career, Kavanaugh said, (rather inelegantly) “I busted my butt in academics.”
And, as we now know, he also partied. Fifteen times in his testimony he spoke of beer. “I drank beer. I liked beer. I still like beer.” He wouldn’t answer when asked if he had ever had so much to drink that he blacked out. With a face contorted by anger at the presumption of this question by Senator Amy Klobuchar, he said, “I don’t know Senator, have you?”
So here’s a man about whom it can be said that he worked hard, and he partied hard.
Perhaps in his mind, as in many of our minds, he thought that the one thing justified the other. Many prosperous Americans seem to feel that because they work hard, they richly deserve the fancy car, the ski vacation in Aspen, the great rambling house surrounded by wide green lawns, and never mind that others in this country also work hard; work at two, even three, jobs and stand at bus stops in both the dark of morning and the dark of night. Only these others know that they can never let loose and party hard because of the silent judgment directed toward all those who have less, especially if they are people of color or people otherwise judged as ‘other’. Think of the still closely-held belief that reveals itself in that old American taunt, “If you’re so smart why ain’t you rich?” That tells you what we value in this culture all right. The accumulation of wealth is the primary measure of a person’s worth.
Still, my mind keeps returning to this image of that 19- or 20- or 21-year-old boy who was said to stand so often by the keg hoping to get the girl and ‘never got her’. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was virgin in high school and “for many years after.” I’ll admit I laughed out loud in my car on hearing that last week but maybe it was true. I dare say many of us were virgins in high school and even stayed that way for one or two years after but not for ‘many years’. By the age of 19 or 20 most of us had begun seeing ourselves as adults and were getting about the business of living. But to believe that in the self-indulgent, feel-good 80s Brett Kavanaugh was still clinging to his virginity for the ‘many years’ he speaks of? That strikes me as unlikely.
I know the Senate may well cast their vote to move the nomination forward before I get these scattered thoughts posted. Still, I had to set them down. The Judge’s notions – as well our own notions of what we are entitled to – expose dark trends in our possession-loving American hearts. We want what we want and we’re sure we deserve what we want. And that’s the best way I can state it at the moment.