Earlier this week I heard some 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,” she added.
A friend who also knew him from Yale spoke of how surprised he and his friends all were to learn at graduation that he 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 if not all prosperous Americans feel they richly deserve the fancy car, the ski vacation Aspen, the commodious 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 both in the dark of morning and in the dark of night. They know they can never let loose and party hard because of the silent judgment directed toward 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 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 stood so often by the keg hoping to get the girl and rarely 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 on hearing that last week in my car but maybe it was true. I know that most of my classmates were virgins in high school, as I was myself. And I dare say most of us 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. And I do understand that the world was different then. This was in the later mid to late part of the 1960s. But in the self-indulgent, feel-good 80s Brett Kavanaugh was still clinging to his virginity for those many years he speaks of? That strikes me as both sad and unlikely.
I know the Senate will likely have 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.