There was so much ink flying around Washington last week in the final days of the Battle for Kavanaugh Bridge that it was impossible to keep up with all the stories. Much of that media effort was focused on finding various ways to undermine the judge’s credibility and convince a few wavering Senators to switch their votes to no. One of the more desperate shots across Kavanaugh’s bow came in this op-ed at the Washington Post from Antonia Noori Farzan. The subject? Bar fights and what they say about people.
This all arose from the revelation that as a young man, Kavanaugh had been out carousing with his hard-drinking, macho pals and gotten into a brawl which resulted in injuries and arrests. (Checks notes) Okay… actually it was an argument during which Kavanaugh threw ice at someone and another person was briefly taken in for questioning. Hey… the same thing, right? Still, Farzan manages to read some entire new GOP, male violence and machismo theme into the entire sorry episode.
It should be noted that bar fights frequently result in injury, and sometimes even death. Punching someone in a bar can result in assault charges.
Critics were quick to announce that they had not, in fact, engaged in bar fights. Getting into a drunken spat doesn’t prove anything, they argued — except for how obnoxious you are…
For hundreds of years, men would resolve conflicts and respond to insults by engaging in duels. But starting in the early 1800s, the concept gradually fell out of favor, Jonathan Gottschall wrote in “The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch.” By the end of World War I, he explained, men were no longer solely responsible for defending their families and their property, because the police state had taken over that role. Defending one’s honor no longer served a practical purpose.
But in some senses, nothing has changed, Gottschall wrote.
Maybe it all depends on where and how you grew up. My first memory of a bar fight (which I was not involved in) was when I was in my early teens. My dad used to take me some Saturday afternoons over to the local watering hole where he would have a few beers, I would have a soda and he’d play some pool. One of those instances resulted in a rather large man becoming quite belligerent toward my father. Dad was not a large man (and neither am I) but he was still an Army sergeant through and through. I still remember clear as day the sight of him standing and backing away a few steps along the bar as the larger man approached. Reaching out with one hand he grabbed a cup full of those plastic stirring straws you usually get in drinks and flung the entire batch at the guy’s face. He reacted as if a swarm of bees had come after him, throwing his hands in front of his face. That gave dad the moment’s distraction he needed to step in toward the guy and land a shot to his chin that dropped him.
The fight was over. It was what my father used to describe as a two hit fight. “Me hitting you. You hitting the floor.”
I managed to avoid getting into any bar fights until the week I graduated from boot camp. Then I wound up in one at the enlisted men’s club at the base. I still have no idea how it started or who was involved, but it swept up most of the place. I hit a few people, a few people hit me, then the MPs broke it up. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was probably in between one and two dozen bar fights, faring better in some than others. I honestly don’t remember them all in detail.
So does it say something about men if they’ve been in bar fights? Does it make you more masculine and impressive? Does it make you crude and low class? Maybe it’s just something that a lot of us went through when we were young. What Kavanaugh was involved in doesn’t even meet the basic definition of a bar fight. In fact, throwing your drink at somebody would probably be looked at as more of a passive-aggressive move in some circles. And I highly doubt it says anything about a man in his fifties serving on the bench. But hey… it gave us all a chance to walk down memory lane for a little while and recall precisely how dumb we could be at times. So good job, WaPo. I’m sure one person who will enjoy reading about this over and over is Supreme Court Associate Justice (for life) Brett Kavanaugh.