What happened these last two weeks? A woman traumatized by sexual assault, who carefully rebuilt her life with strength, bravery, and intelligence, relives her trauma before millions for love of the country and her sense of civic duty.  And a power structure—that doesn’t necessarily disbelieve the woman but instead, far worse, just doesn’t care—rushes to elevate one of their own to the highest court. The striking contrast between the two witnesses in credibility and temperament, and the obvious need for a thorough investigation, are ignored in a desperate sprint to end the proceedings. This was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s fear before going into the process—that she would suffer all the pain and not change the result.

But that is emphatically NOT the message that we take from the events of the Judge Brett Kavanaugh hearings. We take from Dr. Ford a message of courage and determination. These are bleak days, and Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation hurts like hell, but we understand that social movements do not just leap from victory to victory until they cross the finish line. Quite the opposite, in fact. Civil rights of any kind are always won the hard way, with painful losses that always seem more visible and more numerous than the wins. But progress is not won from the top down. And the history of human rights is not made by the leaders; it is made by the people in their millions, suffering, losing, marching, arguing bitterly over family dinner tables, raising uncomfortable conversations on campuses and in workplaces, waking up hearts and minds, going to court, proposing legislation, and of course voting.

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