Years ago at a conference for educators, I heard a well-known person speak about teachers being politically active, not in the classroom, but in their neighborhoods and towns and even nationally. The speaker told how he was often congratulated on having been on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday when the marchers were attacked by policemen. He then said, “ It doesn’t matter what bridge you were standing on before, but what bridge you are standing on now.” He continued to explain that no matter how much pride he had for having been there to protest and to suffer for his protest, what is important, for him and his audience, was what bridge(s) was being crossed now. His words have resonated all these years later and keep coming back.
All of us cross metaphorical bridges that lead from one part of life to another. We bridge from one experience to one other and, if fortunate, we learn as we leave each bridge behind. Some bridges, like the Pettus Bridge, are full of danger and possible harm. Some bridges are beautiful, some old, some modern, and a few inspire awe whether new or old. But we continue to cross each and forge ahead, and hope we are better for each crossing. And it is those bridges that help us share the common bond of being a child, growing older, being a teenager, a young adult, and so on into an age of wisdom concerning living. We all, who have lived long enough, share those common bridges, and we don’t need to be ancient in order to look back and see with understanding how silly, awkward, dangerous, and wrong some of our acts were. We all were, at one time or another, a “knot-head” who did unwise things or spoke unwise words. If we deny that stage of growth, whether long or brief, we lie to ourselves.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now being attacked for an alleged act he committed as a high school student. His accuser seems genuine. He sincerely denies her allegations. Whom do we believe concerning something that happened over thirty years ago? He says, she says. If, in some manner, it is proven that Judge Kavanaugh has been dishonest concerning this allegation, he should step down. However, does it really matter if Brett Kavanaugh, a high school student, got drunk and tried to rape a girl thirty years ago? Is that act, if it happened, relevant to who he is today? If it happened, he was wrong, but does it honestly tell us about the man today? If it happened, was that type of behavior a pattern of his? What bridge is he standing on today?
We spend so much time looking into past closets of public and private figures. For example, I did some very stupid things while in high school, college, and even as a young adult. I used some people, and hurt some others, and harmed myself. But, those acts give no reflection on who I am today. Those bridges I learned from, and I, like so many of us, now stand on another and better bridge.
We are granted grace, so let us give what grace we can to each other. I hope I am not judged by an act committed during the 1960s, my knot-head years.