Sunday, June 7, 2009

Judgey McJudgerton

Admittedly, this post is 10 days late, which is like a gazillion years in blog-time. Everyone else has chimed in, so I thought I'd gather my thoughts and beat this horse dead. If you'd rather not read one more thing about Sonia Sotomayor, wait five minutes (or simply scroll up) for some sweet Rutland pics. If you're in for some high-falutin' talk, follow these four points:

1. Experience is a funny thing. 106 of 110 Supreme Court Justices have been white males. Experience tells us that there are two benefits to being white and male in the country, and they are both related to power. Throughout the short history of the US, to be white and to be male has put you at a distinct advantage in getting ahead and grasping power. Since 1776 white males, especially those with property, have been used to having their voices heard on voting day, and used to representing voters in places of power. And once given power, people (aka, white males) have never been all that willing to give it up, even to those who deserve it. For better or worse, this is the sort of experience 106 folks have brought to the Supreme Court.

To be brown and to be female has meant a completely different American experience. It’s meant one of subjugation, segregation and second-class citizenship. That sort of experience is absolutely foreign to most white males in America, and completely alien to those in power.

This is why diversity on the most powerful court in America is important, and why we ought to actively strive for it. We are the sum of our experiences, whatever they may be, whether we serve burgers or rulings. In a court that's still predominantly white, and predominately male, a new diversifying presence can only be a good thing. (End of lecture one.)

2. Which brings me to point number two, no one serves objectively. Our legal system would like you to believe that judges serve justice and justice alone, regardless of their backgrounds and personal experiences. That however, is a load of bullocks. If you'll allow me to pretend to be a radical for a moment, a white, male court will, more often than not, seek to reinforce existing power structures. That’s just the way power works. We don’t usually overturn the systems that helped put us in a position of power.

This is where my theology begins to bleed in, and I can't apologize for that. At every turn in the New Testament, Christ and his followers were opposed by those in power, because they taught a radically different view of the world. They taught that the poor would become rich, that the meek would be lifted up, and the last would some day be first. That message threatened everything that those in power had so successfully built, whether they were Jew or Roman. And because of that message, scores of people were persecuted and killed and told to shut the hell up. Spoiler alert: it didn't work then, and hopefully, it won't work now.

3. In order for everyone in our country to be served by the law, everyone in our country ought to be represented. The Supreme Court should not simply be composed of the seven smartest jurists in the country, it should, in every respect, reflect our country as it is today: white, brown, male, female -- a kaleidoscope of color and heritage. Any other court does a disservice to the people of the United States of America. I want my court to not only represent existing power structures, but to give a voice to those who are voiceless, to lay low the walls of injustice, and to lift up the meek and the powerless. Can an all-white, all-male court full of brilliant minds to that? Possibly. But can an equally brilliant, yet more diverse court do it better? Absolutely.

4. This last point is a bit of an epilogue. These previous three points will be all the media talks about over the coming weeks as Sotomayor moves closer to confirmation. And that is a sad state of affairs. The only reason to continue talking about Sotomayor’s race and “racism” is money. Talking heads from the right will continue to bring it up in order raise money for the Republican war machine, just as talking heads from the left unfairly maligned justices Roberts and Alito as their confirmations took place. If Republicans can paint Sotomayor as an activist and a racist, they can plaster that on mailings and posters and radio ads, and laugh all the way to the bank. We’ve seen it time and time again. This smear campaign has nothing to do with blocking Sotomayor’s confirmation, and everything to do with raising money. She will be confirmed, because she’s brilliant, qualified and capable. But she’s also brown, female and left of center. And that’s a financial boon for the Republican Party

The sad things is, the media will mostly ignore how capable she is, and instead of getting to the heart of the matter – such as what her views are on the right to privacy, freedom of expression, the right to own and bear arms – we’ll be deluged by stories on her background, her supposed “racism”, and her "activist” aims. In a perfect world, the media would rise above the current talking points handed to them from the right and the left and explore Sotomayor’s record as a judge, questioning whether her judicial record is one that befits a supreme court justice. But no one wants to hear that. That’s a good way to lose eyeballs, drive away listeners, and turn away ad dollars. So instead, expect Hannity and Olbermann to duke it out in the trashiest way possible, and expect the American public to have no idea what kind of a justice Sotomayor might become.

So thank you, established talking points. Thank you, Rush Limbaugh. Thank you, corporate media. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this country is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Falute that?

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