I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world.
How listening is the ultimate act of resistance in post Roe vs. Wade America.
Picture it: you’re breathless, heavily caffeinated, asking the person before you a question that will determine whether you end up keeping them in your life for the rest of your life, or not. It’s painstakingly intense. At least in your mind. You can’t help but think about the consequences of this moment. Ask the wrong question; game over. Ask the right question, and maybe they’ll lie straight to your face.
Obviously you are Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein and the person before you is Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. What did you think I was talking about?
On Friday, June 24, 2022, Roe vs. Wade was overturned. And on Wednesday, September 5, 2018, Dianne Feinstein asked Brett Kavanaugh for his position on a woman’s right to choose. You may have already seen the meme shared this past weekend, quoting Kavanaugh’s 2018 statements: “I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v Wade,” and “It’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court,” and “It has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.”
This is the meme.
Featured are Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett during their respective confirmation hearings as they gave their positions on Roe vs. Wade. The meme was often accompanied by the big, fat caption, “LIARS.”
I am gutted that Roe vs. Wade was overturned. I am disgusted by America and by the five justices who voted for it to be done.
I find it impossible to understand why people are desperate to create laws that have nothing to do with them. Why they’re not content simply not getting an abortion themselves. Not purchasing contraception themselves. Not marrying someone of the same gender themselves. That instead they are hellbent on ensuring no one else gets an abortion. Gets contraception. Marries someone of the same gender.
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But what I’m more interested in is what these four justices said. As they sat before senators, during arguably the biggest job interview of their lives.
It should be noted that Justice Clarence Thomas also voted with the majority, but was not featured in the meme either because a statement about Roe during his confirmation hearing could not be tracked down or because five squares felt impossible to organize within a single meme. The world will never know.
On September 5, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee something else about Roe: “I understand how passionately and deeply people feel about the issue. I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world.”
Anyone who’s ever even seen a documentary about some ruthless public relations tycoon knows that his latter statement is a carefully crafted masterpiece. An annoying masterpiece, but a Van Gogh nonetheless.
Because passion can be felt from both sides of this issue. A conservative hearing Kavanaugh’s statement will feel just as seen as a liberal. Let’s face it: we’re hard-wired to hear what we want to hear, not what’s being said.
I want to live in a country that provides abortion access for all. And I am passionate about that. So when I hear Kavanaugh say he understands how passionately and deeply people feel about abortion, I’m not going to think about the evangelicals who feel passionately and deeply that abortion should be outlawed. I’m going to think about myself. Because we’re all raging egomaniacs at the end of the day.
Kavanaugh didn’t end up on the bench because he spewed one carefully crafted statement. However, he may have ended up on the bench because of the lies he told in private.
But I believe the statement he made in public, along with the statements of the other justices, did inject us with an ounce of hope. Because we heard what we wanted to hear.
I am not a political analyst. I do not spend my days on *The Hill*. And there could be people on *The Hill* who feared Roe’s reversal from the day Neil Gorsuch took the stand. And then feared it even more during Kavanaugh’s hearing; Vice President Kamala Harris is one of them. And then were absolutely terrified of it as Coney Barrett testified. But when the leak dropped in May, I was shocked. When the ruling was revealed on Friday, shock felt like the chart-topping emotion of New York City. I could feel shock oozing from my neighbor’s pores on the subway (among other things).
I don’t think the solution here is for pessimism and mistrust to become chart-toppers next. But I do think the solution is to hear more of what’s being said, instead of what we want to hear.
In politics this is far from easy. Almost every political statement is a vague curmudgeon from the depths of some PR think tank. But let’s start small. When your date tells you they love how passionate you are about starting a family, let’s try to nix the goo-goo-gah-gah eyes and hear what’s been said. They never said they wanted to start a family. But if you wanted to start a family, that might be what you heard.
Are these lies? If a date said that to you, would that be a lie? Was Kavanaugh’s public statement a lie? Or, are these people simply playing the game? A make-you-wanna-cry-it’s-so-frustrating game, but a game nonetheless. Comments are below.
Here’s another meditation exercise for you. Picture you’re at a job interview. A dope one. The job you’ve always wanted. For me, I’m imagining interviewing to be the brand manager for the Aperol Spritz because honestly I could do that job in my sleep.
We’re in Venice. For no reason other than the fact that I bet an Aperol Spritz tastes better in Venice. We’re on a rooftop. As in, the interview is happening on a rooftop. I am wearing a kaftan the exact same shade of fire red as Aperol (because I’m smart) and am asked the question:
“Ms. Marten, what is your position on the Dirty Martini?”
I love a Dirty Martini. But am I going to say that to the Hiring Manager at Campari? Am I dumb? We’ve already established, I am not. Instead I toss the fringe of my fire red kaftan into the wind, watch it billow out, and turn back dramatically, saying:
“I understand how passionately and deeply people feel about the Dirty Martini. I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world.”