Skip to site content

The Kavanaugh Affair, Patriarchal Power and the Decline of Decency

America’s severe decline of decency and the depths to which a patriarchal class will go to retain power was on full display last week.

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearings about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court displayed the patriarchal power of a ruling class demanding its entitlement be respected and insulting victims of sexual abuse.

From Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) angry remarks during the hearing to investigate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claims to President Donald Trump mocking of Ford’s testimony this week at a campaign rally in Mississippi (which received applause from the audience), the powerful patriarchal system is lashing out.

We’re seeing what Susan Faludi called “backlash” in her 1991 book of the same name.

Last week, as senators listened to the allegations presented by Ford, many Americans found her testimony compelling and forthright.

Once Kavanaugh’s testimony began, the patriarchal system in America really started defending itself through visceral responses and disingenuous rhetoric.

Picking up on Kavanaugh’s anger in his opening remarks, Graham leveled accusations of political motivations, challenging the hearing as a “sham.”

As Graham’s anger publicly boiled over, the optics in the chamber could not be ignored. The South Carolina senator unleashed a rhetorical tirade, calling into question anyone bold enough to stand against the patriarchy.

This is not the first time America has witnessed such behavior from a privileged class dominated by white male patriarchs.

Any time their power is called into question or another class of citizens is empowered to rise, the white patriarchal system responds with a visceral backlash and fights back to retain control.

The facts persist that the United States was established by this system, conquering Native Americans and taking away their land and using African slave labor to build an infrastructure.

Throughout U.S. history, the white patriarchal class has ruled through a self-prescribed exceptionalism and cruel domination of others.

When women wanted to vote, the white patriarchy resisted. When African-Americans wanted civil and voter rights, the white patriarchy lashed out with a vengeance. When gays and lesbians wanted the right to marry like everyone else, the patriarchy accused them of destroying the moral fabric of America.

In other words, every time the patriarchy feels threatened, it responds with anger and vitriol.

During the first century, Jesus found himself in direct conflict with a ruling class furious over his acceptance and empowerment of the marginalized and oppressed.

Jesus knew the ruling class eventually would fall due to hubris, declaring, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

It is time for people of faith and decency to rise and chart a new course for history to record.

Regardless of the outcome of the Kavanaugh nomination, decent and civil people need to begin dismantling the current patriarchal system in the U.S.

Women and minorities need to continue rising, offering their intelligence, talents, skills and passion to this cause.

This week, EthicsDaily has been fortunate to run columns from strong young women offering wise insights and honest analysis.

Across the cultural landscape, women are standing up and being heard. While some listeners choose not to believe their stories, the world would profit by listening and believing them.

I need to admit that I hesitated to address this crisis this week. Do we need another male leader attempting to offer commentary on how women should be believed and treated?

Therefore, I decided to address the hubris of the patriarchy while submitting to the wisdom of my female colleagues. Their words speak more clearly and boldly than mine ever could.

As the Kavanaugh affair continues, let us continue to model a path of civility and decency for the world, even when others fail to do so.

Let us keep praying for transformation while seeking out opportunities for God to use us to bring about that change.

Let us keep standing up to patriarchal bullies, letting them know their days of tyranny are soon ending and a new day of egalitarianism is dawning.

Finally, let us keep the hope of the inclusive gospel alive as we seek to bring lasting change to systems void of ethical leadership and genuine compassion.

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is executive director of EthicsDaily.com.