Opinion

Kavanaugh in the Crucible

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Posted: Oct 05, 2018 12:01 AM
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Kavanaugh in the Crucible

Brett Kavanaugh could play the lead in a new version of "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's celebrated play about an innocent man tested by the mob. The playwright was a man of the left, but his play reflects what can happen to a reputation anywhere when the dishonest unleash poison.

It's about outrage at the terror created by "subjective reality" when applied without evidence or proof. It's about the personal savagery that can take over a decent society that becomes an unthinking mob out to destroy a decent man in the name of morality.

The playwright wrote "The Crucible" to describe a trial by ordeal. A crucible is a small laboratory dish where tests of metal provoke violent reaction when the heat is turned up. Miller uses the metaphor for testing the mettle of human conscience, exploring what happens when hysteria is ignited by heated but false accusations.

Miller specifically focused on the politics of the 1950s, when then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy and hearings of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee created the crucible to punish men and women said to be card-carrying Communists without proof and without witnesses. The senator went on fishing expeditions to get people to defame the innocent on the pretense that they were conspiring to overthrow the government. "The Crucible" explores the state of the public mind, where new sins are created daily and quickly accepted as "the new orthodoxy."

Miller set his play in the Salem, Massachusetts, of 1692, but his play is timeless, exposing what happens when the public abandons collective conscience to wallow in the "morass of subjectivism."

He saw what came to be known as McCarthyism, fostered by the "far Right" in the 1950s, creating "a new subjective reality, a veritable mystique which was gradually assuming even a holy resonance." But the screw turns. He would surely see today that the tale of Salem has become a tale of the left, with the Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee driven by the hysteria of intolerance. The destruction of Brett Kavanaugh and his family are loftily dismissed as merely collateral damage.

"Above all, above all horrors, I saw accepted the notion that conscience was no longer a private matter but one of state administration," Miller wrote of the America that inspired "The Crucible," in an introduction to his collected plays. "I saw men handing conscience to other men and thanking other men for the opportunity of doing so." This should be required reading for Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein.

The turning point in "The Crucible," which destroys the protagonist, an innocent man, turns on a woman's vengeful lie. Kavanaugh's nomination was not threatened until one woman, without a single witness, accused him of sexual assault, a charge supported only by memories clouded by the passage of nearly four decades. Christine Blasey Ford didn't speak of her "trauma" for three decades, and then she only did in couples therapy with her husband. But now she says she's sure it happened -- "100 percent."

Her memory lapses then and now are prolific and disturbing. While much is made of her having dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder, which has "affected her memory," no one has diagnosed her with false memory syndrome, where a person's identity and relationships are affected by memories falsely recalled. This term is not recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis, but it has been documented by reputable scientists who have found evidence of it, especially in children. But she's not on trial. He is, and the FBI found no corroboration for her accusations.

Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and former Harvard law professor, appeals to fundamental fairness for the judge. He says Brett Kavanaugh's trial by ordeal in the court of public opinion has become a trial for his life. "We have come a long way since McCarthyism," he writes in the Wall Street Journal, "but we now live in an age that risks a new form of sexual McCarthyism."

"The Crucible" was set in the hysteria of 17th century New England, where young women could not halt the chain reaction of accusations. The Kavanaugh hysteria is a 21st century reprise in the capital of a deeply troubled country. The #MeToo movement was founded on justified anger against powerful men eager to take advantage, and it has devolved into a movement to whip up lynch-mob hysteria over any accusations that touch on sexual assault, some proven and some not.

One of the protestors who accosted Sen. Jeff Flake in a Capitol elevator told him she had been sexually assaulted and that if he were to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, it would mean that her assault "doesn't matter." It means no such thing. "Verdict now, evidence not necessary" is the legacy of Salem extended to our time, our place. Confirming the judge to the Supreme Court will show we're capable of doing better than that.