Opinion: A reasonable expectation

Marty Price stands with his sign during the protest on the MSU campus earlier this week

Ryan Phillips
SDN Editor

In journalism, it’s crucial to look at, or at least consider, all sides of an issue.

Sometimes we miss the mark and other times we may not hit hard enough.

But earlier this week, I received some polite feedback regarding the nationwide Walkout and Moment of Solidarity, which comes amid swirling tensions during the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

This week will likely see Kavanaugh and at least one of his accusers, California professor Christine Blasey Ford, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation.

Some readers who called in and wrote emails asserted that the accusations against Kavanaugh were unfounded, while others said women’s words are always believed over men in a type of reverse rape culture. The over-arching theme here is that each were framed in some way through the lens of the Kavanaugh confirmation.

One Facebook graphic shared by several good people I know, branded as #HimToo, said “As long as women who accuse men of sexual attacks are believed without evidence or due process, no man is safe.”

It was followed by #IStandWithBrett and #ConfirmKavanaughNow.

Removing my own politics, I hold to the idea that every person, regardless of gender, race or belief, is entitled to more than a reasonable expectation that they will not be sexually assaulted. What’s more, all people should have beyond a reasonable expectation that their rights regarding everything from due process to self preservation will be protected by the government. That goes for all sides.

I think if politics become the focus, then we truly overlook the actual problem. It’s as if many in our society are fine with inventing dilemmas spurred by “rape culture” to push a political agenda. I don’t believe it’s intended to be so blatant, but using such a sensitive topic to forward an
agenda certainly works to drive a idealogical and political wedge between citizens in a democratic society.

When did we reach a point where sexual assault became a red or blue issue?

And I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing. If it takes a political scandal in one of the most divided times we’ve seen in recent decades to get us talking about sexual assault, is it so bad? If the issue becomes a pop culture hot topic, does it negatively impact the overall message of holding those guilty of sexual assault and misconduct accountable?

At least it’s being discussed, right? I wasn’t in the room when said incident(s) occurred involving Kavanaugh and can’t say with any personal certainty what happened. I’m not here to judge that.

But I’m a firm believer that Ford should be allowed to testify, along with any other accusers, and Kavanaugh should be allowed to confront them on their claims if he chooses to do so. Let the chips fall where they may while being sure to see that due process is had for all parties involved.

We waste enough taxpayer money on things like paychecks for those on Capitol Hill, so it shouldn’t even be up for debate that we can spend the time, effort and energy to make sure all accusations are heard, all evidence presented and all questions answered or at least addressed.

This is not the first political circus prompted by a Supreme Court sex scandal, looking back to 1991 with the Anita Hill controversy during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

But there is a precedent being set.

The Kavanaugh controversy is the first of its kind in the digital age, when someone tasked with upholding the law and interpreting the Constitution at the highest level is embroiled in a sex scandal.

Information travels faster than ever before and works quickly with respect to shaping individual worldviews for many.

As that same information becomes increasingly politicized, it becomes even more dangerous for all involved.

Our culture at the granular level has evolved due to the current level of interconnectivity, which splits us into smaller tribes than ever before, hiding behind our computer screens and using political leanings to qualify whether or not someone is telling the truth regarding sexual assault.

So if I’m liberal, I have to immediately believe every accusation? Absolutely not. It defeats the purpose of due process if the way you vote informs the way you process facts and evidence. It’s what got us into the whole “fake news” situation we see today.

If I’m conservative, does that mean I have to belittle every accuser? So few people are that callous and narrow-minded, so I don’t buy into the far-left argument that every Republican must be a fan of sexual assault.

My point is, if we are ever going to make any progress raising awareness of sexual assault while holding accountable those who are guilty, we must first remove our own political agendas and see the issue for how pervasive it truly is.

Ryan Phillips is the executive editor of the Starkville Daily News and Daily Times Leader. The views expressed in this opinion column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either newspaper or their staffs