While there have been too many theories flying around the past few weeks to keep track, I am surprised by what I haven’t heard. Is it possible that Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser may be honestly lying?
In Senate hearings today, Christine Ford unequivocally stated that she was 100% certain that her attacker was Brett Kavanaugh. While this was taken as unequivocal proof of the crime to some, others weren’t so impressed. The statement was especially interesting since Dr. Ford is a well-trained and well-respected psychologist. I’m sure she is fully versed on the challenges of memory.
If the past few decades of brain and memory studies have taught us anything, it is that the brain is not a perfect recorder of the past. Several decades ago, many psychologists delved into repressed memories to uncover events that, though forgotten, were adversely affecting the lives of their patients. The field became wildly popular. Criminal cases were pursued, and some were convicted on the “clear” evidence provided by the recalled memories. Sadly, it was only later that DNA evidence came along clearing some of those wrongly convicted.
The book “My Lie” by Meredith Maran is based on the author’s true story of coming to grips with her abusive father. After working with a popular feminist activist and hearing the appallingly high statistics concerning sexual assault she gathered the courage and told her mother. In the aftermath, her family was violently divided with each person choosing a side. Tragically, it could have all been avoided. Later, Ms. Maran would come to realize that what she remembered, never actually happened. You can watch the book trailer here.
Elizabeth Loftus is a Psychologist and Researcher who specializes in false memories. In various trials, she and other researchers have convinced subjects that they had adverse reactions to certain foods when they were younger or “helped” people remember things differently than they actually happened. In a Ted Talk, she tells the compelling story of a man falsely accused and imprisoned for rape because of the victim’s false memory. In this case, the rape had actually occurred, but a different man had committed it. You can hear her talk here. Is it similarly possible that something actually happened to Dr. Ford, but the who and other details are inaccurate?
Recent work in the field of memory and neuroscience reveals that our memories are stored, recovered, altered, and re-stored over time. At any point in this process, the actual events can be distorted. Sometimes, we replace the person or specific events with ones that make it more manageable. In our mind, we may replace a distant authority figure with someone much closer to us because the pain of the truth is too much to bear. There are many reasons that memories just can’t be fully trusted.
Like you, I don’t know the whole truth in this situation and unfortunately, we never will. There will always be elements we don’t know. We are way too spoiled by movies that neatly wrap things up for us. Real life doesn’t do that very often.
We do know that there are a lot of motivations from a lot of different people. The challenge for us as Christians, is NOT to become political activists or inadequate judges of our fellow citizens. Judge Kavanaugh should not lose the life he has so diligently worked for without conclusive evidence. It is also true, however, that Dr. Ford should not simply be dismissed as a political hack. It is possible, believe it or not, that Dr. Ford is telling the truth – as she understands it – AND Judge Kavanaugh is innocent.
It is also important for us to remember that in the same way we cannot be certain of Dr. Ford’s recollections, we also should never be so certain of our own memory that we are ready to wage war with others based solely on our recollection of events.
Selah (Think on these things)