Watching the hearings yesterday, I was struck by the contrast in demeanor between Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. On the one hand, we had Ford — clearly emotional, but making every effort to contain herself and remain stoic. And on the other hand, we had Kavanaugh — not only angry, but unabashedly so, making no effort whatsoever to contain his emotions.
Even more surprising was the contrast in how people interpreted this — specifically, comments on social media pointing to Ford’s relative stoicism as a sign that she was lying. According to these comments, she was working hard to look upset, but not doing a convincing job at it.
If you yourself believe this, please allow me to share some thoughts:
I understand that you see Kavanaugh’s unbridled passion as a sign of sincerity, as an indicator of true upset, and therefore as proof that he’s the one telling the truth. His responses just seemed more “real,” you say. I understand that.
At the same time, I hope you understand (and really, how could you not?) that different people respond to adversity in different ways. While some may lash out and put their emotions on full display, others may make every effort — or even just naturally be inclined — to keep their emotions in check, to process their feelings internally and remain outwardly stoic.
What you may interpret as insincerity, others may recognize as an attempt to retain some level of control over an overwhelming situation. What you may interpret as lying, others may recognize as carefully considered truth.
Please remember that. Just because Ford didn’t act in the way you would act if you were in her position doesn’t mean that she’s being fake or outright lying. Just because Kavanaugh acted in the way you would act if you were in his position doesn’t mean that he is in fact telling the truth. Just because you’re a Captain Kirk doesn’t invalidate all the Captain Spocks out there.
Emotions themselves say little about the veracity of the person displaying — or hiding — them. That’s what makes us humans so tricky. We’re really really different, and it can be really hard to understand someone else sometimes.
No, Ford’s stoicism doesn’t mean that she’s lying. Neither does Kavanaugh’s anger, for that matter.
So let’s remove the question of who’s lying and who’s telling the truth for a second, since we’ll never know with 100% certainty, and we’ll never come to an agreement on that. Where does that leave us then?
Well, we can’t point to Kavanaugh’s overt emotionality as an indicator of sincerity, but we can point to it as an indicator of something else:
Kavanaugh’s demeanor and comments make it clear that he feels he deserves to be on the Supreme Court, that he believes it is unacceptable that someone would oppose him in this way. He believes he’s earned it, and he’s goddamned pissed that he has to go through this ordeal.
And for someone aspiring to the Supreme Court — a position whose very purpose is to weigh out controversial matters in a deliberate and thoughtful manner — I find his attitude problematic at best.