In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’s classic children’s story, a young girl named Lucy begins telling tales about meeting a faun named Mr. Tumnus in the strange land of Narnia where it is always winter and never Christmas. What is a faun, you ask?
He was only a little taller than Lucy herself and he carried over his head an umbrella, white with snow. From the waist upward he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat’s (the hair on them was glossy black) and instead of feet he had goat’s hoofs. He also had a tail, but Lucy did not notice this at first because it was neatly caught up over the arm that held the umbrella so as to keep it from trailing in the snow.
Lucy is the youngest of four siblings and she says she got into the land of Narnia through an old wardrobe stuffed with fur coats. Then Edmund, just a little older than Lucy, fumbles his way into Narnia and meets Lucy there.
But when Lucy and Edmund make it back to the earthbound side of the wardrobe, Edmund pretends the whole Narnia business is just a little game he and Lucy were playing. (Edmund, as you might have guessed, is a little snot.)
Lucy refuses to recant her story, so Susan and Peter, her older sister and brother, decide they must report the matter to the old professor who has opened his weird old country mansion to them while the blitz rages in wartime London. They are concerned about Lucy and fear she might need the kind of help that is above their pay grade.
The Professor hears Susan and Peter out with admirable patience and then asks a question. “How do you know that your sister’s story is not true?”
“Oh but–” Susan replies, “Edmund said they had only been pretending.”
“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance–if you will excuse me for asking the question–does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the most reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?”
“That’s the funny thing about it sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.”
“And what do you think, my dear?” said the Professor, turning to Susan.
“Well,” said Susan, “in general, I’d say the same as Peter, but it couldn’t be true–all this about the wood and the Faun.”
“That is more than I know,” said the Professor,” and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed.”
“We were afraid it mightn’t even be lying,” said Susan; “we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy.”
Madness, you mean?” said the Professor quite coolly. “Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad.”
“But then,” said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn’t know what to think.
“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
Lucy and Christine Blesey Ford have a lot in common. Both are telling remarkable stories and neither of them can corroborate their claims. Until recently, most of us took Brett Kavanaugh for just another legal nerd with a love of learning, Catholicism and all things traditional.
So, who do you believe?
There is a broad consensus that Christine Blesey Ford is a convincing witness even if she can’t remember all the details we’d like to hear.
But poor Mr. Kavanaugh is portrayed as an impeccable jurist with his career and reputation on the line. Why not call it a draw and rule that, as in baseball, a tie goes to the runner.
And that’s where C.S. Lewis’s Professor comes in. After watching last week’s hearing, which of the two, Blesey Ford or Kavanaugh, strikes you as the most reliable? I mean, which is the most truthful?
Professor Blesey Ford never pretended that her memory of that fateful evening is complete. There are a lot of things she doesn’t remember. But she knows she was sexually assaulted, and she knows Brett Kavanaugh was the laughing boy with his full weight pressing down on her and his hand over her mouth.
And then there’s Brett Kavanaugh. At the hearing he was petulant, bizarre, rude, distracted, disingenuous, disrespectful and captive to his own rage.
Both of the people answering questions were operating under unspeakable pressure, and it showed.
Both Blesey Ford and Kavanaugh must live out their lives as symbols of controversy. But one was consistent, eloquent, polite and poised; the other was wild-eyed, wired and consistently evasive.
Both had a lot to lose; only one of them had anything to gain.
Kavanaugh supporters don’t want to say his accuser is lying, but they imply she is confused. Somebody molested her, but her addled mind has placed Brett Kavanaugh at the scene of the crime when he clearly wasn’t there because, as he never tires of reminding us, he is too hard-working, religious, athletic, academically gifted and disciplined to have done anything of the kind.
In other words, there must be something wrong with Professor Blesey Ford. She doesn’t appear to be crazy, but if Kavanaugh is telling the truth, there is no other alternative.
Except that she isn’t crazy. As the Lewis’s Professor would put it, “one has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad.”
There are only three possibilities: Either she is telling intentional lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth.
Two of the three simply ain’t so.
So, “for the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”