Word of the Month

Dakota Blackman

trust (n): a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

I have been thinking a lot about the word “trust” recently. Its dictionary definition reads as follows: “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” The nominal form of the word has roots in Old English, Old Norse, and Proto-German. The words from which it has evolved are all unsurprisingly similar in meaning, beginning in the 13th century with roots in religion, and progressing into an umbrella term for all kinds of faith.

Of course, I think the subject of trust—either directly or indirectly—has been on the mind of many recently. Last month, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor and researcher in psychology at Palo Alto University and at Stanford University School of Medicine, testified during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school; she described her experience in detail, provided thoughtful and articulate answers to questions asked, and—true to her profession—accessibly and effectively dove into psychological and neuroscientific explanations of trauma, telling Senator Diane Feinstein that traumatic events can occlude “basic memory functions,” resulting in “the trauma-related experience [getting] locked in there whereas other details [can] kind of drift.” Blasey Ford, much like Anita Hill before her, was compliant and forthcoming, claiming simply that she was doing her civic duty and informing the American people of an unfit candidate for the United States Supreme Court.

Brett Kavanaugh, much like Clarence Thomas before him, was confirmed shortly after this testimony.

Trust calls for a belief in the “reliability, truth, ability, or strength” of someone or something. But what does it mean to really trust, and how does it manifest? Objectively speaking, Christine Blasey Ford checks all the boxes here: her testimony was reliable, she told the truth to the best of her ability (and had enough self-awareness and scientific understanding to account for moments when she was unable to do so), and she showed incredible strength. Brett Kavanaugh, by the dictionary definition, did not live up to Blasey Ford’s example. He was unreliable both in his temperament and his testimony: he lied under oath and also had what was essentially a tantrum on the senate floor. His ability has been questioned not only by the American people, but also by organizations such as the National Council of Churches, former friends and colleagues from Yale University (his alma mater), and several thousand law professors. Kavanaugh has not earned the country’s trust, yet he has it. He is not fit to be trusted (much less to serve on the United States Supreme Court), yet he is. It is disappointing, but not altogether surprising, that those in power are willing to put their trust in a man who does not deserve it, and revoke trust from a woman who does.

Throughout the whole confirmation process, our Senators (and our country’s system of justice) did not warrant trust. However, Christine Blasey Ford warranted trust, respect, and—above all—belief.

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