Like everyone else, I’m writing about the Kavanaugh hearing. But because I’m self-centered, I’m really writing about myself.
I’ve barely paid attention to this news cycle. I don’t have cable TV. I never watch videos on news websites, and I only spend a few minutes each day listening to the radio. Almost everything I know about the Kavanaugh hearings, is stuff I read on CNN’s website. But in general, I find myself avoiding the story. I’ve already made up my mind.
I’ve already decided that Kavanaugh is disrespectful to women, and I have no doubt that he assaulted a girl at a house party in the eighties. I don’t think he’s a good fit for the Supreme Court–if for no other reason, now he’s just going to base his decisions on how much they’ll piss off the Democrats. But I also think he’ll be confirmed, because, apparently, America is going insane.
I listen to NPR for eight minutes each day. Four minutes on my way to work and four minutes on my way home. Although this week, I only listened for about a minute. This week is NPR’s fall fundraising appeal. Every time I got into my car and clicked on the radio, they were asking for money. I don’t mind it when non-profits ask for money. I work at a non-profit. I ask people for money. But on NPR, they don’t just ask. Instead, the reporters have long conversations with one another about how great NPR is. They go on and on congratulating each other on their reporting skills. I can’t listen, so I don’t. I turn off the radio.
Thursday, after work, I got in my car and gave NPR a try. This is the first thing I heard: Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh whether he was ever so drunk that he couldn’t remember what happened the night before.
Judge Kavanaugh: “No, I remember what happened, and I think you’ve probably had beers, senator.”
Senator Klobuchar: “So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before?”
Judge Kavanaugh: “You’re talking about a blackout. I don’t know. Have you?”
And then the Senate cut to recess, and my NPR station cut to their fundraising banter, and I cut off the radio. Those few seconds of testimony left me feeling icky. I was disgusted that this is how the Senate spends their afternoon.
But in the day or so that has elapsed since that stupid and snarky exchange, I find myself thinking quite a bit about blackouts. “You’re talking about a blackout. I don’t know. Have you?” Hasn’t everyone? Susan and I were talking about this today. She says no, not everyone. Just everyone I know (or knew in college). I was in the party-crowd that Kavanaugh’s been denying.
During my sophomore year at college, my dormitory hall was gearing up for a grain party. Have you heard of these? You make a sickly-sweet punch—usually from cheap powdered drink mix—and spike it liberally with grain alcohol. Grain is flavorless, inexpensive and 95% alcohol. In comparison, Jack Daniels, a whiskey that is popular with drinkers who like to get drunk, is only 40% alcohol. As we mixed the punch an hour or so before the party started, we kept sampling the batch. It was gross, too sweet. We added more grain. Around the time the party kicked off, my night ended. I woke up the next day facing stories about my six-hour blackout.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. My blackout episodes started well before my sophomore year and lasted into my thirties. Not all blackouts are the same. Of the hundred or so times this happened to me, none were as total and long-lasting as my grain experience. Usually, I simply had blotchy memories the next day. Sometimes, I couldn’t remember how the night ended. On rare occasions, I would suddenly become aware in the middle of a blackout, not knowing where I was or what I was doing.
I’ve had belligerent blackouts where I’ve tried to pick fights. I’ve had lost in the city blackouts unsure how to get to my destination. I’ve wound up at home without paying my tab. I’ve woken up in my car, on strangers’ couches, and naked on the basement floor.
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never committed sexual assault during a blackout.
I write all this because I can. I had a serious (and dangerous) drinking problem for a long time, and then I had a less serious (and not actually dangerous) drinking problem for another long time. So I speak from experience, if everyone says you have a drinking problem, you probably do. If your night ends fuzzy (or completely lost in fog) then you have a problem. If many people are accusing you of things you can’t remember doing, there’s a problem.
It’s clear to me that at one point, Kavanaugh had a problem with alcohol. If he’s like me, he may have the problem under control, but it’s still there. The first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. And so far, at least in public, Kavanaugh won’t do that.
The Republican majority doesn’t seem concerned about a justice with a history of sexual assault. I guess the drinking problem seems unimportant in comparison.