“Is this the little woman who made this great war?” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said when meeting Harriett Beecher Stowe in 1862.
She wasn’t, of course — the mechanism for the Civil War had been set in motion with the founding of our country, 80 years earlier. Its creation an untenable balance, with an equal number of slave states and free states together in a nation supposedly based on liberty. The conflict was inevitable; Stowe merely wrote a book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” that helped galvanize Northerners against an injustice all too many were willing to accept.
The question of slavery seemed settled in 1865, with the defeat of the Confederacy. Though the question of who is a person, who counts, is still the essential issue of America, asked again and again throughout our history — should these former slaves be allowed to have careers in the military? To go to school with white kids? Should employers be obligated to hire them? And what about women? Are they human beings fully formed enough to vote? To fight as soldiers?
The most recent instance unfolded dramatically last week, as Brett Kavanaugh was not waved onto the Supreme Court by his fellow members of the powerful, ruling class, but instead found himself confronted by an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who claims he tried to rape her at a party when they were both teenagers.
Does it matter? Does she matter? How you answer the question depends on where you stood before asking it. The Republicans, having elected a man who admits molesting women, and contort themselves to tolerate any lie and ignore any infamy, say “No.” They didn’t even want to investigate her claims, because a year into the #MeToo movement, such questions are better left to Hollywood.
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