Elevators and accountability

Perhaps the most compelling moment of the long drama surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings occurred in a surprisingly small space.  On Friday, in a Capitol Hill elevator,  two sexual assault survivors forcefully confronted Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, whose vote is one of a handful that could determine Kavanaugh’s fate.



Moments earlier, Flake had declared his intention to support Kavanaugh, who has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.  But hours after the elevator encounter — captured by CNN cameras —  the visibly discomfited Flakes said he would not vote to confirm without an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s behavior.

The activists have been criticized for speaking truth to power, mostly by conservative men who — despite the #MeToo movement and a demonstrably sexist president — dismiss the intense anger many women are feeling as they fight to finally have their experience taken seriously.  That’s what immediately at stake:  not Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence, but the rush to confirm for political expediency a man who may have behaved despicably, and perhaps criminally, toward women.  As if it didn’t really matter — because historically, it hasn’t.  (If  you find the protestors’ methods disturbing, I refer you to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir’s observation: “Television has made dictatorship impossible and democracy intolerable.”)

Apart from its apparent effectiveness — and its establishment of elevators as a new locus of social protest — the encounter most impressed me with Ana Maria Archila’s definition of justice.  As she speaks to Flake, she focuses not only on what she believes Kavanaugh did, but the lack of moral accountability it implies, a point she hammers home time and again.  “Do you think he is able to hold the pain of this country and repair it?”  she asks the senator.  “The way that justice works is you recognize harm, you take responsibility for it and then you begin to repair it. “myss croip

It’s a potent statement, piercing the conjoined heart of personal and collective integrity.  For me, it brought to mind best-selling author and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss.  Myss believes that one reason people don’t heal from their wounds is because they are never meaningfully acknowledged.

As a culture,  she says, we have lost the language of the soul that expresses moral responsibility and encourages forgiveness.  Myss draws an important distinction between intending to harm another — a relative rarity, in most of our lives — and being willing to, in order to get what we want.  This all-too-common willingness to cause collateral emotional damage is deeply destructive, all the more for being unacknowledged or blown off.

Here’s Myss, powerfully speaking the language we must re-learn:


“I’ve sinned against you.” One needn’t be Christian to appreciate the import of the word, its gravitas, the accountability it conveys. How remarkable — how respectful — it would be to speak to each other in this unflinching language, to genuinely acknowledge the wounds we cause, and in so doing encourage what Myss calls the “slow, prayerful crawl” to forgiveness.

Yet how rare that we hear such self-aware, heartfelt admissions —  or offer them.  And still the desire persists:  to be truly seen and respected, whether as individuals or as members of groups grievously injured by the “-isms” that have long poisoned America’s promise of equal treatment and opportunity.

Females may well be the largest and last of those groups to receive some morally meaningful acknowledgement of harm done,  of the particular and collective sins committed against them by males who have cared less about the profound damage they cause than getting the sex and power they want.

“The way that justice works is you recognize harm, you take responsibility for it and then you begin to repair it,” says Ana Maria Archila.   Amen, I say.  Amen.



  1. Interesting too how little discussion there was in this whole nomination about the qualities needed for a position on the Supreme Court. Wisdom, compassion, dignity and judiciousness rated no mention. Thanks for the Myss clip and your blog – I always enjoy it.


    1. Good points, and you’re welcome. Thanks for reading and listening, and for your appreciation!


  2. if only the good
    had more money
    to bribe
    than the bad 🙂


  3. Powerful audio clip. Great post – thanks!


    1. You’re welcome. I, too, find Myss’ language compelling.

      Liked by 1 person

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