- - Monday, October 1, 2018

The Statue of Liberty, named Liberty Enlightening the World and known affectionately as Lady Liberty, stands resolute in New York Harbor, a beacon of freedom under our constitutional rule of law to which millions of people from around the world flock for safety and a new life. At her feet lie a broken shackle and chain. What a powerful symbol for the unique nation that is the United States of America.

But shackles are slowiy forming once again around Lady Liberty’s feet, our feet. Fundamental tenets of the rule of law that serve to protect each of us from capricious and despotic government are being chipped away by cynical politicians and their lackeys, while large numbers of Americans appear oblivious to their encroaching servitude.

As unsettling as has been the confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it also has been a startling confrontation with what has become of the “women’s movement” over the last 50-plus years. And it has served to expose how unequipped younger generations are to prevent the shackles of tyranny from returning.

I grew up in the rebellious years of the 1960s and ‘70s, as the women’s liberation movement was forming. From elementary through high school, I attended a girls’ school and went on to graduate from a women’s college. My favorite poster in my college dorm room was of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, wearing white gloves, sitting with a handbag on her lap, with the caption: “But Can She Type?” We were raised to be confident, knowledgeable women, “liberated” to enter fields of employment that had been closed to us before. But something happened over the next 50 years. The women’s liberation movement morphed into women’s victimhood, painfully represented by Christine Blasey Ford.

Liberation without personal responsibility can lead to unwanted consequences. Finding yourself unable to remember what happened during a party begs the question of responsibility for one’s actions. My understanding is that victims of assault vividly recall details of abuse as they desperately fight back against attackers. Being unable to recall when, where and how something happened, who was involved, unable to produce corroborating witnesses, and then claim yourself as a victim, does a disservice to women who had the presence of mind to remain alert and able to describe details of an attack. It sets back the women’s movement crusade for respect. And it ignores the necessity for personal responsibility.

Let me pause a moment and say, after watching the FordKavanaugh hearing on Thursday from start to finish, I believe that Christine Blasey Ford very likely was a victim of assault. But the perpetrator was not Brett Kavanaugh. Even the people she named as witnesses said he was not involved and that the event didn’t happen.

Many of Mrs. Ford’s fellow alumnae from the Holton-Arms School penned a letter expressing solidarity with her. They cited no facts to substantiate her charges against Judge Kavanaugh, only sympathies for having heard similar stories or experienced the party life where liquor flowed freely. They want “a world where women are free from harassment, assault and sexual violence.”

Apart from psychotics, who doesn’t? But like accusers during the Salem witch Trials, these alums pointed their collective finger at Judge Kavanaugh and proclaimed support for their fellow alumna with no evidence of wrongdoing. Susanna Jones, head of the Holton-Arms School, publicly stated her pride in Mrs. Ford for using her “voice” and celebrated the solidarity of the Holton “sisterhood” for their letter. What was celebrated was victimhood. Not empowerment.

Apparently, the Holton-Arms School is not teaching American jurisprudence to its students. Even a rudimentary understanding of the Western canon and U.S. Constitution would enlighten students to know that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is a fundamental tenet of our system of jurisprudence tracing back to the Magna Carta. Maybe they haven’t been taught about the Magna Carta either.

Young women, encouraged by teachers, mothers, aunts, classmates and friends who chant “Guilty!” in the clear absence of any evidence of proof, are traveling down a most dangerous path of ignorance.

Equally frightening has been the blatant assault on the presumption of innocence by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He declared that Judge Kavanaugh was not protected by the presumption of innocence because he was not undergoing a criminal trial. Think about that. The titular head of the Democratic Party in Congress effectively says a nominee for the Supreme Court can be damned with unsubstantiated charges simply because he or she is not under criminal charge. That means you, too, dear reader, could be assaulted with any accusation as long as you’re not in a criminal proceeding.

Are we living in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy? What is happening in our beloved country?

Parents, it’s time for you to ask what your children are being taught in their schools. When Christine Blasey Ford’s fellow graduates of the Holton-Arms School sign a letter in “solidarity” with her, not even questioning the veracity of her charges, alarm bells should ring.

How does our unique republic survive when the presumption of innocence is so cavalierly disregarded? With every pointing of the collective finger and every premature pronouncement of “Guilty!” without a modicum of proof, the shackles are tightening once again around Lady Liberty’s feet. Our feet. Lady Liberty is the real victim of assault.

• Catharine Trauernicht is a writer in McLean, Va.

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