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That all of this—the unalloyed and dovetailing lust for power of one white male sociopath and the aggregate of white men, the future of the highest judicial body in the country, that country’s total failure to assign any kind of consequence to sexual violence, America’s marrow-deep hatred and fear and distrust of women, what else, surely much more—should resolve and crystallize onto the head of one woman who never did more than merely being a 15-year-old girl in search of a bathroom to volunteer herself for the position is fucking obscene. But versions of this happen all the time; it is centuries past time for every American man to have learned that every American woman’s body is a place where America grants itself license to play out all its savageries. If you know a woman, you know a woman who knows this better than you ever could. We men have not been listening.

Today, men—the men who run the country, with the active and passive assent of too many of the rest—saw fit to pretend that this must happen on the floor of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the cameras of every news organization in the nation pointed at her face; that men could think of no better way to address the stratospheric professional goals of one fucking guy than to ask a woman to relive the worst experience of her life before a dais of preening and indifferent soup-brained octogenarian reptiles, with the whole world watching on television. Again.

That’s all this is about. Brett Kavanaugh, at absolute best a milquetoast mediocrity among his peers, could be replaced as a Supreme Court nominee at a moment’s notice by any of actual hundreds of at least equally qualified jurists. The question being addressed today by the Senate fucking Judiciary Committee only and entirely is “What shall we do with the possibility that awful things he did to other people might cap this one white man’s ascent even a hair short of the single most prestigious job in his entire profession?” To find the answer to this question, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was asked to stand before the world and describe what it was like when he tried to rape her. And then to be cross-examined by a prosecutor. Because one white man wants an even better job than the one he has. Because there is the possibility that Brett Kavanaugh might have to settle for slightly less than being a Supreme Court justice.

My impulse was to write that there is no coming back from the failures and derelictions that called today’s hearing into existence. But holy fucking shit, man, how the fuck ahistorical would that phrasing be! Coming back? This is back, the place of origin, the dismal obscene home base. Back is where the question of whether Clarence Thomas should be a Supreme Court justice or merely remain an extremely powerful district court judge required Anita Hill to stand and tell the awful, humiliating truth and get fucking sneered at by Joe Biden—and where Thomas got to join the Supreme Court and Biden went on to be every good liberal’s beloved Uncle Joe. Back is where the reasonable and abundantly justified fear of some smaller-scale version of exactly this is why the vast majority of sexual abuses go unreported in America. Back is where every Brett Kavanaugh comes from—it’s the country that made Donald Trump its president. There’s no coming back from this, because wherever it is that this doesn’t happen, America has never been there before.

I will never have to do anything remotely as hard or as brave as what Dr. Ford did today, and if you, reading this, are a man in America, that’s almost certainly true of you, too. A thing that requires not even the teensiest little fraction of the courage she brought to that awful chamber today, and which most of us, me included, nonetheless routinely chicken out of doing, is just fucking listening. Maybe we can just fucking listen, when women say This is what happened to me or This is what happens to women or This is what it’s like to live with all you motherfuckers all the time. Maybe if we fucking listen, maybe if we’re willing to hear it in our private spheres, in our homes and workplaces, to say nothing of in our hospitals and police stations and courts and therapists offices and news reports and blog posts and personal essays, maybe if we put a threshold lower than today’s monstrous, hellish, unforgivable congressional spectacle on our precious fucking attention, I dunno, it won’t fix everything or maybe even anything but, for God’s sake, it will be new. It won’t be the same. And in that respect it almost can’t help but be an improvement.