In a stroke, Susan Collins has made the Judicial Branch of the American government a world famous bastion for sexual predators. With rapist and sexual predator Donald Trump representing the Executive Branch, the only thing preventing a hat trick (a tricameral trifecta, if you will) is that the old white Republican men leading the Legislative Branch these days are simply too old to be in charge much longer.
And she managed to do all this and avoid calling Dr. Christine Blasey Ford a fantasist. How did she do it, you ask? By employing the politically convenient but scientifically rubbish theory of mistaken identity. Sure, Collins says, Dr. Ford was sexually assaulted, she just got the identity of her attacker wrong. It couldn’t have been Brett Kavanaugh. It had to be somebody else.
Not so, says Richard Huganir, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The person lying on top of you — who she’d previously met — you’re not going to forget that.” Hoganir explains further, “There’s a total consensus in the field of memory … If anything, fear and trauma enhances the encoding of the memory at a molecular level.”
In other words, the mechanism that makes you recall vividly where you were and what you were doing when John F Kennedy was killed, or when you first heard about the Challenger disaster, or 9/11, is alive and well and quite competently at work when you’re being sexually assaulted, too.
Of course, it’s easy to see how Susan Collins could have gotten this wrong. A simple oversight, like failing to google “sexual assault and mistaken identity,” for instance, could have easily led to a hasty false conclusion. But, Sue Collins can’t be expected to do everything. She’s only one lone United States Senator, after all. With a staff. When you’re in a hurry to vote, and vote “yes” at that, sometimes you just don’t have time for anything else, like facts or truth.
And with that single stroke, her “yes” vote, Susan Collins may well have managed to write her political epitaph in 2020. And unlike the rambling, guilty-minded justification for that vote that she has so desperately made since, her epitaph may very well have been written with just that one single word.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.