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The abuse of power by authority figures is embedded in the roots of our nation—it has existed since the moment of its conception, and is an aspect of politics that continues to thrive today.
Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, was accused of sexual misconduct by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and the general societal reaction was that Dr. Ford was fabricating her story. This assumption was strengthened by the President himself through his constant mockery of Dr. Ford. Though the allegations were not completely dismissed, Kavanaugh’s support from a man of President Trump’s esteem and authority brought Dr. Ford’s credibility into question, rather than focusing on Kavanaugh’s actions themselves. In fact, excuses were made for Kavanaugh’s actions, and Dr. Ford was ignored essentially because she was a woman. This bias in attitude can be accredited to one thing alone: the power of the President of the United States, or even politicians in the United States. This is a power that has been abused countless times throughout history.
It’s only logical that the abuse of power grew along with the nation; it was a trait passed along from our founding fathers themselves. Thomas Jefferson, a man of many accomplishments, is one of many founding fathers guilty of such actions. His abuse is exemplified through his relationship with Sally Hemings and her children, and his fervent desire to protect his honorable legacy and reputation.
Sally Hemings was the slave of Thomas Jefferson, and also bore some of his children. Their relationship began while she was about 14 years old, still obviously a young child incapable of consenting to a relationship with Jefferson, a man thirty years her senior. Furthermore, she was considered his property, meaning he was allowed to partake in whatever actions he desired, and she had to abide by them.
One of their children, Madison Hemings, publicly revealed that Jefferson was his father, only to be met with utter disgust and incredulity. The thought of a man of Jefferson’s stature partaking in an extramarital affair, moreover with a slave, was seen as blasphemous at the time, solely because of the power granted to Jefferson by his presidency and the reputation he had worked so vehemently to protect. Hemings was immediately dismissed and left to deal with societal judgement on his own, despite the fact that his story actually held true.
Some argue against the fact that Jefferson abused his power, as during the time period, Sally Hemings was considered his property, not a living human whom Jefferson had power over. The flaw with that ideology is that though she wasn’t considered a person at the time, she still was a person. A person whom Jefferson developed feelings of infatuation for, who bore his children. He more than acknowledged her humanity. He actively chose, therefore, to keep her in a position where he could exert his power over her, and was able to keep doing so even through his legacy, because of the reputation established by his presidency.
Politicians have so often used their positions to excuse or distract from their deplorable actions that it has led to a cycle of systematic oppression against women and people of color being ingrained in our society, a cycle that continues to thrive today. We have perpetuated the cycle by consistently giving more value to the words of the oppressors, and meeting the repressed with nothing but deaf ears. For a nation conceived in liberty, it is far too often that liberty only applies to the rich white men in power, and far too often that that fact is overlooked.