On Reality and Reputation

28 Sep

Ford Kavanaugh

On Reality and Reputation

By Kathy Custren

 

The current saga of the senate confirmation hearing of judge Brett Kavanaugh unfolding in the public arena of the U.S. Government embodies the struggle between history and storytelling; of reality and reputation. There is a war on, not only to ‘manage the truth,’ but to silence voices that would otherwise speak out—or, as many wonder—would have spoken out years ago. The power struggle is a real one, where we pit one person’s reality of experience against another person’s claim of reputation.

As the senate confirmation hearing points out so well, these are not only larger stories of a nation. These stories reach down to the personal level, as with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, where so many experiences serve to define what makes or breaks each one of us. What are the lessons that make up our past? What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or so others tell us. Defining those very personal stories and airing them for the world to see is no small feat; nor does it diminish the horror we find at its core.

For some persons who take charge of telling horrific stories, it is more a matter of choice and creativity. Take very successful novelist Stephen King as a prime example. He has made it his life work to bring us creative stories that scare the bejesus out of us—that shock our sensibilities and may awaken the darker side of our collective psyche as to the unnameable fears that lie dormant in some deep layer or layers of our understanding. King takes us down some dark and sketchy roads at times, but his many readers trust his reputation of masterful telling in the many stories we consume eagerly.

This senate confirmation hearing and the extended stories of the #MeToo movement are quite another thing entirely. With Stephen King’s stories, we pay good money for a good scare. The stories of pain and fear elicited at the hands of other men over time do not hold the same sense of masterful reputation. Women tell stories of scary experiences at the hands of men that are beyond the parameters of choice or want. Persons who suffer abuse would not ‘pay good money’ to have these types of personal encounters or to welcome them to our life story; yet, they are all to prevalent to deny. These are real horror stories, to be sure, and they have an effect on the overall dark and painful experiences of women over time. These are generational stories, not merely national ones reaching the spotlight of public scrutiny.

These painful stories go beyond the airing of one’s dirty laundry—beyond the more civil storytelling of gossip and innuendo. The oddity to all of this may carry the hashtag #WhatsNext. Stories like these are not like good horror novels that we can put down at times after reading a chapter or can put on a shelf to add to our collection. What are we going to do with all these many horror stories that come out of the darkness and into the light?

These are stories of family, friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, and grandmothers that we cannot as easily close the book on and put aside for a while. These are very real stories that open unhealed wounds of persons who relive past trauma. These stories cross cultures and generations in their depth, which only adds to the rising tide of shared pain. These experiences are difficult to digest and, as many in powerful positions would like us to think, hard to believe. Yet these are the very realities of abused women and men which others with reputations, like judges, senators, or priests, would seek to control.

As we walk down the middle road of our existence, with a chorus of painful reality on one side and the ruthless gang of reputation on the other, there is a very real battle for what we believe. Who is telling the real story? Who will we install in positions of power and judgment over others? And who will be around to write the history books when this greater narrative reaches its eventual end? ~ Blessings!

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