“People might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit,” is one of the many statements made by Judge Brett Kavanaugh in his interview with Fox News prior to his testimony. While I am sure many hold this sentiment, there is an implied dismissal of accountability in this statement. The current generation of youth has been brought up in the emergence of the internet and the forever-looming idea that our actions can have consequences. We are told as early as middle school, throughout high school and continuously through college that the digital information and reputation we create to put out into the world can never be deleted. This is the world of today, one that I am sure certain an adolescent in the 1980s would be hard pressed to imagine.
The multiple allegations of sexual assault posed against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been widely contested from not only those who affiliate with the political right but from his former classmates and friends as well. However, my issue is not with those who wish to propose positive character testimonies or those outside of the investigation who wish to highlight the very political nature of the debate surrounding it. Rather, it is those that try to undermine the concept of accountability in youth. Arguments stating the age of the allegations, and of Judge Kavanaugh himself at the time, seem to ignore the fact that, in many states, these events happened at the age of 17, when an individual can be tried as an adult in court; thus, how can these be attributed to follies of youth? How can accountability for potential actions be so readily discarded?
So much emphasis is placed on the idea that these allegations are unfounded due to the delay in reporting and of the judge’s present-day reputation. Some of these criticisms are very fair in pointing out the political undertones that motivated this delay. Yet, let the reader not be sidetracked by partisan undertones incorporated into the testimony of a man seeking to attain an inherently non-partisan position. The focus of these testimonies was meant to address allegations, not create more. It must be asked, even with the conflicting accounts of what exactly happened, is it worth the risk to have a man in such an impactful position to be anything less than perfectly, ethically sound? The questionability of Brett Kavanaugh’s ethics can be dedicated to documentation of poor youth life choices as much as the allegations themselves.
New York Times publications of Judge Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook descriptions and later accounts of reckless drunken conduct while at Yale present an image of a less than righteous young man. The personally crafted yearbook page and verified accounts of recklessness say more about the character of the individual depicted in the stories of supposed sexual assault than the polished image of a Supreme Court nominee of today. This is not to say that he should automatically be condemned. Innocent until proven guilty still stands as the standard. Yet, those who still believe in some semblance of accountability will rightfully forever question his credibility unless the now multiple accusers and those that gave less than faltering character testimonies all retract their statements.
As American TV personality, Judge Judy, put it, “reasoned people will listen to both sides of [the] argument.” Ideally, following the FBI investigation, some clarity will be provided. Yet, given the “he said, she said” dynamic of this story, it is impossible to achieve total satisfaction. Brett Kavanaugh might be a wonderful father, a devoted husband and an outstanding public servant by recent accounts; yet, these factors do not hold any weight in defining the character of a young man who is accused of heinous crimes from decades ago. The recorded actions of his youth forever smear his name, even should the allegations fall through. Ultimately, a lesson for everyone following this story is that time does not fade liability for one’s actions and one should not be surprised to face repercussions, even years after the fact.