Paddling Out Past the Fear

Christine Blasey Ford doesn’t consider that her real name. At work, she’s Dr. Ford. For old friends, it’s Chrissy. In the mind of the public, however, it’s Christine Blasey Ford. That one detail – not being able to name oneself – encapsulates much of what it is like to be a media/political story. Ford’s memoir, One Way Back, is a fascinating exploration of what that all is like. The simple summary? It is awful and best avoided if at all possible.

Ford, as a reminder, is the academic research psychologist who came forward during the Senate hearings surrounding Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. He attacked her decades earlier when they were in their teens. Ford was traumatized, pushed much of the assault aside – the norm for the time period. Through therapy many years later, though, Ford realized how the assault affected her, its interplay with family dynamics, and other questions of choice and preference. When Kavanaugh was named, she thought sharing what happened to her was the right thing to do.

Morals, unfortunately, have little to do with the way that politics, political theater and the media operate.

One Way Back is about Ford’s journey, the why behind her decisions, and the terrific costs she and her family endured along the way. She’s a very intelligent, focused, and clear-thinking professional. Ford is also an avid surfer. More than a hobby to her, surfing is essential to her personal grounding, to her identity, and to her health.

I came away from the book liking her and admiring her choices. The memoir is not about policy and it is not an argument for anything. It is about her life, her values, and telling her story. Ford’s directness, which no doubt has caused her challenges over the years, is central to her identity. As a work of non-fiction, it offers credible first-hand information about how statements can be received (or not), how they are manipulated and shaped by others, and the massive distance between “history” and “media accounts.” One other important takeaway from One Way Back: be careful of snap judgments and headlines.

David Potash