The confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh have provided us a painful reminder that our actions, no matter our age, have consequences; that sexual assault is an offense never forgotten by the victim; that accusations even without evidence have influence.

The experience is proving itself as the best and worst of American politics.

Kavanaugh adamantly denies the charges against him, and if he is indeed innocent, he clearly is the victim of a political chess match in which the players are using other lives as pawns in their all-consuming struggle for power.

If new evidence is found and his nomination is withdrawn, the process, rugged and invasive as it is, will have served its purpose for his opponents.

Much is at stake as conservatives and liberals all realize that the next justice could sway the lean of the highest court in the land.

And, Kavanaugh innocent or not, the emotional testimony of his primary accuser has served up yet another rally cry for victims of sexual assault in their plea for understanding, justice and prevention.

Capitol Hill today is the scene of too many subplots for us to see the real storyline that will evolve.

The real judges, the American people, will no doubt see the drama conclude with split decisions.

The real victims could be both, Kavanaugh and his accuser, and those who stand behind each.

The real consequences may not fully be realized for years to come, long after the next justice is finally seated and making far-reaching decisions.

Meanwhile, there also is the lesson in this that every high school- and college-age young person should note, regardless of the specifics to Kavanaugh: Youth is no free pass for actions that harm others.

And that is a point here at home that we’ve painfully been reminded of far too often in recent months.

Perhaps we all can learn something from the current hearings gripping so much of the nation and use it to do better.

We should hope so since, as the sour taste and deep hurt attests, there remains much still to be learned.

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