By Sushil Kutty
Judge Bret M. Kavanaugh and Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Two powerful men. Both wear a collar and for the time being both look collared. Arrayed against them are two women and #MeToo. A Catholic nun of Kerala and a professor in Palo Alto University, California. The women have drawn parallels. But they have vulnerabilities. Accusations have been levelled against them of being the cat’s paw. That they are “lying”. In the nun’s case, victim-shaming has passed acceptable levels. But then, is there an acceptable level of victim-shaming?
Judge Kavanaugh’s “tormentor” has come in from the cold, from when he was 17 and she was 15. It’s a case of he says/she says. The allegation is that he tried to “force himself on her” at a teen-party 36 years ago, along with some other “boys”. But – ask her detractors – is it “four boys” or “two boys?” Besides, she doesn’t know “location” and “time”. “Why should men shut up when her memory is unclear on who, when, where and how?”
The Judge says all her allegations are “baseless lies.” Besides, Prof. Cathrine Blasey Ford “doesn’t want to sit in the same room” with Judge Kavanaugh and testify though she was quite willing to sit with a Washington Post reporter. She wants an FBI investigation but the Statute of Limitations has passed and it was not a federal crime.
It’s a #MeToo moment but in the year since #MeToo first burst into the scene, things have changed, at least is changing. Men are fighting back and Prof. Ford might end up contributing to the loss of credibility to the #MeToo movement. Democrats on the Senate judiciary Committee also maybe got the “timing wrong”. Inviting in the process allegations of “selective moral outrage”, “rushing to judgement”, “being sanctimonious”; witnesses “pleading that they don’t have first-hand knowledge of what happened” and “why should men shut up when she is unclear on who, when, where and how.”
Also, that the Democrats are “infantilizing” her; how can they say “attempted rape” when she is not saying attempted rape? What about presumption of innocence? Accusations alone will not do. Time was when #TwoTiming was the fatal flaw. Nowadays, #MeToo delivers the killer punch. But in Judge Kavanaugh’s case it’s political and seen as delaying tactics of the Democratic Party in an election year. Also, the professor is not happy she was compelled to reveal her identity and testify. The nun in Bishop Franco’s case was not even allowed that compelling reason to become “public”. Her own colleagues of the Missionaries of Jesus stood her up and sold her down the river, releasing a picture of her smiling and standing next to Bishop Franco.
“Look at her smiling, she’s so happy standing next to Bishop Franco,” was the unwritten, unspoken caption. Poor nun, she could only hang her head in “shame” and curse the smile. But that did not dent her resolve as intended and she wrote to the Vatican. September 19, Bishop Franco was in Kochi facing the “police inquisition”, and must have to give 500 correct/valid answers to 500 questions to regain his place at the head of the pew.
It looks tough. The police have been given time till September 25 to arrest a Bishop or release the Bishop with honour intact. The good Christians, who are a sizeable chunk in Kerala, are holding back a political indictment of the Bishop and political parties including the BJP are wary of alienating a vote-bank. The moot point is can the nun’s “accusations alone” indict Bishop Franco?
It all depends on how many ‘Bishop Lies’ are caught; how many of his answers to the 500 questions will #MeToo Bishop Franco? The nun “remembers”, the Bishop’s driver “remembers” and the nun’s friends “remember” will not be enough. A strong case will require nailing evidence. Palo Alto Professor Ford and the Kerala nun-cannot-be-named have only bad memories to hurl at powerful men who allegedly pawed/raped them. But if memories could hang, there will be the guilty hanging everywhere.
Judge Kavanaugh and Bishop Franco Mulakkal have many things going for them even though Judge Kavanaugh is not Bishop Franco and India is not the United States where even the POTUS has to fall in line and give the “woman” the podium to nail the chosen “pervert” with a #MeToo. In case of a stalemate, the judgement will favour “Eve”. And even if the Judge gets past this phase, the allegation has tarnished him for life.
To date, all American #MeToo “victims” have fallen to the charge. The mightier the target, the more definite and bigger the fall. Judge Bret Kavanaugh, if he slips through, will be the first to escape the net. But #MeToo is facing resistance. A mere recitation of accusations will not do. Especially in “cold cases” dating back decades. Wednesday, the editor of the New York Review of Books had to leave his position after he published an essay by a disgraced Canadian radio broadcaster with a #MeToo accusation. He was acquitted by the court and the ex-editor said the accusations against the radio show host was not his concern. (IPA Service)