The Fragility of Memory and Christine Blasey Ford

MacKinnon Cartoon

Biblical scholars perusing deep, dusty antiquities have a much better grasp on the vagaries of memory than the current President of the United States.

Stay with me.

I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

I was sexually assaulted by a woman at the university where we both worked more than 30 years ago. It occurred at a Christmas Party — I remember a few cheap decorations and a fake tree — in 1987. At this time in my life, I was already training in karate, and on my way to a black belt, so I was fit and strong. Karate is actually the only way that I can timestamp the year.

I had been drinking hard. I went to pee and, in the middle of the act, she barged in declaring, “I know you want this.”

I was appalled; this was the last thing I wanted. She rushed at me, and I barely managed to stop my stream, and say something like what do you think you’re doing?

She clutched me around the neck to pull me to her. I retreated backwards like a frightened crab and fell awkwardly into the bathtub, still exposed, carrying her in my fall. She outweighed me, and landed on top, hard, gaining the advantage. I lost my breath, but not my wits, and I clearly remember her trying to fondle me and stick her tongue in my mouth. I grabbed her hand as she groped, and slowly twisted it behind her for leverage. I wasn’t gentle. It took me maybe two minutes to force her off of me. I scrambled out of the bathroom, zipping up, not looking back.

So what did I do for the rest of the evening?

Well, I didn’t go home right away, choosing to avoid her for the rest of the night. I didn’t confront her. I didn’t report it to the cops or my employer. None of the other two dozen guests saw anything happen. No one could bear witness on my behalf.

For decades, I told no one.

But I was nominally her boss, so I laid her off during our next workday together.

This isn’t a #MenToo story. I was never in danger. I never felt fear. With my martial arts skills, and her drunkenness, she couldn’t have forced me to do anything against my will.

I write these words to support Ford in the best way that I can. By telling the world what a man can recall with pure, distilled clarity, and explain what is lost to time because it grew pale with insignificance. I write because an overwhelming number of conservative men, and Republicans in general, believe Kavanaugh.

I can’t remember how I got home. Can’t remember if the party was at someone’s home or a house on campus. I can only tell you the names of three other guests. Unlike Dr. Ford, I can’t remember my attacker’s name.

But her image is seared in my brain. In the hippocampus.

Ford is telling the truth. Which means that Brett Kavanaugh is not.

Everything Ford said, and how she said it, felt like truth bundled in veracity. Even her uncertainty felt authentic. When she described her attack, I was breathless, and wiping away tears.

Which brings me back to The Bible. To find the authentic words of Jesus, biblical scholars consider mundane conversations questionable. But when Christ or a prophet says something startling or controversial, their phrases are far more likely to be passed down accurately through generations. So professors of religion are confident that the phrase “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven” is the authentic words of Jesus, just as one example.

Perhaps Kavanaugh, routinely described as a devout Catholic despite multiple accusations of sexual assault, knows that The Bible is riddled with scriptural holes. The earliest Gospels were written a least a generation after Christ was put to death, and vary significantly when chronicling many noteworthy events in Jesus’s life. But I doubt he cares. He strikes me as a fire and brimstone man, adhering to the unforgiving Gospel of Mark. Holding everyone to account but himself.

My own experiences show me that the humdrum details aren’t memorable. I don’t remember calling a taxi or, more likely, stumbling home, but those moments in the bathtub are crystal clear. And yet, in a tasteless display of abject mockery, President Donald Trump ridiculed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for not remembering each quotidian detail of her sexual assault with clarity.

Trump’s hideous Mississippi rally victimized Ford for the third time in less than a week, after her dramatic, heart-rending testimony failed to change any Republican minds in the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was victimized yet again by the Senate proper when Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, and Mitch McConnell cast votes in favor of her accuser. And she will be victimized again and again now that Brett Kavanaugh will sit on the Supreme Court for decades.

But Ford is not alone. Men like actor and former NFLer Terry Crews, who was assaulted by a Hollywood agent, stand with her. And so do millions of American women, each with their own powerful and poignant stories of abuse.

They will not forgive Republicans any time soon, beginning in November.


Viral political cartoon by the Halifax Herald’s Bruce Mackinnon, my hometown newspaper cartoonist.

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