After reading a NY Times story about Brett Kavanaugh and his background, the entire Mad Men, private school world of white male entitlement came rushing back.
Disclosure – I attended private schools all my life, including the New Jersey-based Lawrenceville School in the 1970s, which then was all-male. I was a football and lacrosse captain and a middling student with good social skills that gave me access to the right people and places, including an exclusive New England college that had just admitted women.
That’s why I feel I know Kavanaugh. He went to Georgetown Prep. (So did Neil Gorsuch but that is an absurdity for another day) He played football and was part of the same white male entitled culture that I had at Lawrenceville.We each had sister schools. Holton-Arms is the sister school of Georgetown Prep. Weird.
We had our dances – absurd, forced gatherings of boys and girls trying to figure out everything from sexuality to drugs under the watchful eyes of “masters.”
Only today do we look back and see how BAD those environments were, how unhealthy for social development, how forced, and sometimes how dangerous. Girls to us were foreign objects, treated with disdain, forbidden fruits to be pursued and conquered. The key – and this was more true in college – was to cover all this over with the haze of booze so the pursuit was somehow more justifiable. This behavior was taught, encouraged and learned.
The underside of the private school world – like America – is dark and dangerous. Those who defend it are largely part of that generation of white men who feel displaced by the coming demographic change in America. They feel like they worked hard, provided, built US institutions – including these private schools – saved the world from the Nazis. And what do they get for that? A bunch of angry women demanding their share. They don’t understand why women are pissed off. They just wanted to be thanked in their retirement.
But they forgot something. This post World War II society and culture was largely built on the backs of others – especially women – who have been shunned, harassed and ignored. If you need the lesson, just Google Rebecca Traister at The Cut or New York Magazine. She is the best writer on this subject and her new book “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” is out soon.
We are now in a reckoning period where the Internet and history are emboldening those marginalized people to raise their voice, fight back and demand what is theirs – voting rights, civil rights, respect in the workplace or the right to be left alone.
Which brings us to Judge Kavanaugh, the very embodiment of that angry white man generation that now feels wronged. At his private school in the DC suburbs, he played football, hung out at the country club, had access to all the right people and rebelled against that oppressive life by getting shit-faced with his buddies and hunted girls from Holton-Arms and other girls schools. He thought he was entitled because the culture told him so.
To those who say I am wrong, I say – I have been there. I have seen it up close. I know exactly what was going on with Kavanaugh and his buddies because I saw it and did it at my private school.
Are there good sides to these schools. Yes. Great teaching, great facilities, all the advantages for rich and poor alike. But the sexual abuse stories at these schools around the country now raise the question of their purpose in the society. I got the call from the law firm investigating abuse claims at Lawrenceville.
Perhaps they are better now. But in my time and Kavanaugh’s these schools were Lord of the Flies. And sometimes it was really, really dangerous.
And this is the legacy that has now bitten Kavanaugh. A woman who watched this entitled guy getting the ultimate prize and never having to answer for anything perpetrated by his tribe of marauding bros. Again – I have been there.
This reckoning has its villains (Harvey Weinstein and Moonves). It will have casualties that can be painful on both sides. We are now arguing whether Kavanaugh falls into the bad guy camp or the casualty camp. But the judge will never lose his job, while his victim is hiding from the haters, forced from her house and her job.
In a way, I feel sorry for Kavanaugh. In his sad denials, his tone-deaf parading of his girls basketball team before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his bragging about how great he is with women. He still doesn’t get it. Doesn’t get where he came from. And he will never admit it. He thinks he deserves the Supreme Court. He thinks Grassley, McConnell, Hannity and the right-wing love him. But he just doesn’t get that he is just their vehicle for a larger crusade.
I have some advice for Kavanaugh.
Tell the truth about what happened, first to your family in private. Then tell the Senate and the press. Then offer to meet with Dr. Ford in private. Apologize to her. Listen to her. Then make a sincere effort to understand the ugly culture that created you. Then withdraw your nomination and return to the Court of Appeals for the rest of your life. You just might find that you will become a better person and set an example for the rest of the country – and your daughters.