PSSSSST, middle class white ladies! Huddle up! Let’s talk about this Jill Abramson piece in yesterday’s NYMag where she advocates impeaching Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “Do You Believe Her Now?” asks the headline, under photos of Anita Hill and Justice Thomas swearing the oath at his confirmation hearing in 1991. Since you’re asking, Jill, yeah we believe her now. We believed her then, too! So should we take to the streets and demand that the Republican Senate replace a 69-year-old Justice on a mission to destroy women’s rights with a 32-year-old version of the same?
NO! ARE YOU CRAZY?
Abramson lays out in meticulous detail all the credible allegations of harassment from Hill and several other women. It’s gross, he’s gross, and these women’s careers were clearly harmed. Then she demands that Thomas be impeached, not because of that harm, but because he lied about it to Congress.
[B]ecause of the lies he told, repeatedly and under oath, saying he had never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.
Lying is, for lawyers, a cardinal sin. State disciplinary committees regularly institute proceedings against lawyers for knowingly lying in court, with punishments that can include disbarment. Since 1989, three federal judges have been impeached and forced from office for charges that include lying. The idea of someone so flagrantly telling untruths to ascend to the highest legal position in the U.S. remains shocking, in addition to its being illegal. (Thomas, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on a detailed list of queries.)
Yes, it is shocking and illegal. Yes, speech is free and we’re all entitled to say any damn thing we want. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we spend 10 seconds thinking about the fallout from our provocative truthtelling, and we don’t use our public platform to risk other women’s health and safety. Sometimes we call up our sister instead and shout, “How the hell do we have a Supreme Court Justice who lied under oath to Congress? They oughta boot that guy out of there!”
And then we let the matter drop.
Because we remember five minutes after Justice Scalia died when Mitch McConnell vowed to hold his seat open for the rest of Obama’s presidency. And we watched Republicans kill the filibuster rule to install that vanilla reactionary Gorsuch on the Court. We know damn well that if a movement to impeach Thomas ever took hold, Republicans would jump at the chance to get someone younger and stupider in his place. And we know that we, you and me, Jill, will not be the ones to pay the price.
Because we are white women, married to white men, and our marriages are safe. Because we’ve already had our children, and won’t be personally affected if abortion becomes illegal. Because no one stops and frisks a middle-aged white lady. Because we’re not about to be deported. Because we live in blue states, with good schools where no one teaches kids that God created the earth in a week and requires abstinence until marriage. Because we live near excellent hospitals. Because when we put a glass under the tap, clean water comes out. Because no matter what happens with the court, we will be okay, and so will our children.
But if you give Republicans an excuse to install some kid from the Federalist Society at the Supreme Court, they will take it! And people like us, Jill, have no business idly speculating on the propriety of getting rid of a 69-year-old Supreme Court Justice, no matter how bad he is. The cost is too high, and it will be born by younger, browner, poorer women.
You know who does have a right to make that argument? Anita Hill. And Moira Smith. And Angela Wright Shannon. They have a right to ask for an accounting without worrying what it costs the country, because they paid the price 27 years ago when Thomas was confirmed. (And, by the way Joe Biden, we’ll be thinking about your disappointing conduct in those hearings if you decide to throw your hat in the ring again in 2020!)
But you and me, Jill? No. Not our time. Not our turn.
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