Monday Mix Editorial: Common history

  • Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. POOL VIA AP/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Published: 10/1/2018 8:12:42 AM

Last week Northampton High School students walked out of class in support of sexual abuse survivors; Bill Cosby laughed after being sentenced to between three and 10 years for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman; and Hampshire Life columnist Naomi Shulman wrote about how even women who never would have described themselves as survivors are taking in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony “and suddenly experiencing a shock of recognition. For some of us, the trigger hasn’t been an old trauma, it’s been a new realization: Wait a minute, something like that happened to me at that age, too, and wow, I never thought about how messed up it was. In other words, it’s a constant reawakening: Me, too.”

To illustrate how truly systemic these assaults are, she revisits an incident from when she was in high school and a person she thought was a friend — whom she had known for years — pinned her down during a party and ejaculated on her.

Shulman’s analysis of her reaction — that she was lucky that she hadn’t been raped — reveals how inured we have been to these experiences. “Things like this happened to girls I knew all the time,” she writes.

If she were in the same position as Dr. Blasey Ford, and “the boy who pinned me to the grass in the mid-’80s were now on the cusp of winning real power,” she wonders now, “would I have the wherewithal to risk my own standing, my career, my family, my very life, the way Blasey Ford is doing?”

She’s not sure. As we learned on Thursday, Dr. Blasey Ford wasn’t either. After attempting to pass along relevant information to her representatives about Judge Brett Kavanaugh without sacrificing her safety and privacy, she testified on Thursday that the experience of coming forward has been worse than she could have imagined.

She testified that during high school Kavanaugh covered her mouth to muffle her yelling while trying to remove her clothing: “This is what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”

For those watching the proceedings, Dr. Blasey Ford’s rawness, even now, calls to mind writer Margaret Atwood’s observation that when it comes to feeling threatened, the primal fear of men is that women will laugh at them. Whereas women fear that men will kill them.

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​​​​​​It hasn’t been needed for about 40 years, but for more than a century, a large wooden cabinet on the first floor of the Amherst Town Hall was the town’s safeguard against fraud on the part of local shopkeepers.

The cabinet — built in 1848 and now on display at the Amherst History Museum — holds the tools of the trade of the town’s sealer of weights and measures, who would make sure customers were getting what local businesses claimed they were.

Today, of course, much of our shopping is done online, where it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re getting. That’s one of the reasons it can be nice to think of a time when accountability was still something local.

Guiding reporter Scott Merzbach through cabinet from top to bottom, museum consulting curator Marianne Curling showed off the cabinet’s equal-arm balance scale, graduated weights and liquid measures. These are now mechanical artifacts of a kind, and can be exciting to those who study history and admire 19th-century handiwork — but they also serve as a reminder to all of us about the importance of fairness and the work it takes to broker honest business practices at all levels.




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