He wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer the question.
“There’s never been a case where you drank so much you didn’t remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened?”
“You’re asking about a blackout. I don’t know. Have you?” he shot back.
This is a common enough back and forth. A woman asks her boyfriend, or husband, or friend, whether he can recall the things he did while drunk. As a result, he becomes defensive. Does he remember the things he said? The things he did? Does he regret them? Is he remorseful?
It’s not just that men don’t believe women. We forget them, too.
It’s also a response I recognize. A defensive dodge. The creeping horror that what she is saying may be true. And then, a survival instinct kicking in. But the truth has a way of showing up when it’s not supposed to, like a weed poking through asphalt.
He doesn’t know. He forgot.
Senator Amy Klobuchar asked Judge Brett Kavanaugh that question during yesterday’s instantly-historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about allegations of sexual assault. She asked if he remembered not remembering.
Kavanaugh was fighting for his reputation. His accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, was fighting to be remembered. It’s not just that men don’t believe women. We forget them, too.
Even as I write this, I am forgetting Dr. Ford. I’m writing about Judge Kavanaugh, one of the most powerful people in the world. A man on the cusp of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. A man who will make decisions about whether, for instance, a woman’s body—all bodies, really—are government property.
I am writing about him. Not her. Not her torment and sorrow. This is Kavanaugh’s past. But it is her present, her now.
He doesn’t know. He forgot.
I watched Dr. Ford calmly, and bravely, reveal her pain. She pierced the darkness of time, and privilege, and told her story. It is a story of heartbreak, and horror, and the cold laughter of boys being boys.
Then it was Judge Kavanaugh’s turn to proclaim his innocence and shudder with anger. His opening statement was emotional, but it was also peppered with partisan grievances and references to church and family. At one point, Judge Kavanaugh even defended his taste for beer — America’s favorite, and least effective, anti-anxiety drug.
“I liked beer, I still like beer,” he said.
It was a transparent and overly clever attempt to recast a Supreme Court nominee as the judge-next-door. But it was also a tell. A secret code. If this trial, an attempt to demand that one person is accountable to another, can happen to Brett Kavanaugh — father, coach, mentor, successful judge — it can happen to any man.
That was the message. The pitch. It can happen to me. A regular American man who likes beer. Because all regular American men drink beer. We’re practically baptized in it.
As a person who hasn’t had a drink in eight short years, I can tell you that drinking so much that you pass out doesn’t absolve you of anything.
Hell, I like beer. That is both in the present and past tense. I liked beer, I still like beer. Just like Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Beer wasn’t my drink of choice; bourbon gets the job done faster. It’s the more efficient way to self-obliterate, to relieve oneself of the burden of accountability. But beer accomplishes the same goal. It’s a beloved American soft drink that, slowly, guzzle after guzzle, crushed can after crushed can, gently erases memories.
Beer is an important part of the half-heartedly repentant drunk’s prayer: “Oh, Lord, I will never have another drink as long as I live, except for beer.”
I have blacked out from drinking too much. I have woken up, hungover, not knowing why my lip was busted or why I was on public transit, far from home. I have laughed about it with friends. We had an understanding that what happens in the twilight of intoxication stays there. An American covenant handed down from generation to generation of men. A beer-fueled stupor is one of the only safe spaces men allow themselves, and that is where we tell each other we love one another, and it is also where women become playthings.
America is a man and we are a country that forgets. Power doesn’t recall. On the advice of counsel, money takes the fifth.
As a person who hasn’t had a drink in eight short years, I can tell you that drinking so much that you pass out doesn’t absolve you of anything. The groping. The cruel words and laughter. The sexual boundaries pushed. The sexual boundaries violated. Horseplay. We forget the looks of anger and disappointment. We forget the wreckage. We forget women.
I don’t know Judge Kavanaugh. But I see him. I see him in me, and vice versa. I can’t help but see it. I am not better than this man. I know, and I will not forget.
Any of it.