I am not a big fan of Sonya Sotomayor. I appreciate the fact that she comes from a lower-class, ethnic background, but I don’t give her points for being a Hispanic woman–hey, Eva Peron was a Hispanic woman, y’know? From what I can understand of her legal career, she is not going to rock the boat. She has tended to rule in favor of corporate rights over individual rights, and, after all, George Bush Sr. was the President who first nominated her to the federal bench–albeit at the prompting of Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan.
What has really struck me about her nomination is the bizarre behavior of those who oppose her. I think this points up a major divide in America’s consciousness, and speaks directly to the reasons why we are having such a hard time doing the right thing–this is deeper than mere corporate malfeasance and money addiction, this gets to why people are such suckers for that bait in the first place.
What really brought this home to me was the attitude of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. In his own words:
I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any President who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court.
In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying.
Such an approach to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but instead feels empowered to favor one team over the other.
Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it is not law. In truth it is more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.
Two things struck me about Sessions’ statement. The first was his assumption that a human being could not bring their own “personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies” to whatever they were doing, whether it’s being a Supreme Court Justice or being a shoemaker. Unless you happen to be enlightened, a condition almost certainly not predominant in either Ms. Sotomayor or Mr. Sessions, your “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies” is pretty much who you are, and in the rare and wonderful event that you are enlightened, that enlightenment will still manifest itself through the unique lens of your “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.” Wow, how did I get from politics to enlightenment? That “Deep Green Perspective,” gotta love it! But, as so often happens in these monologues, I have digressed….
The second thing that struck me about Senator Sessions’ statement was a look at his record–he was an active participant in the approval of Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, who have proved to be deeply under the sway of their own “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.” More on that in a minute. Here are some examples of Sessions’ own conduct that he did not consider to be the disqualifiying, undue influence of his “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies” when he was nominated for a lower Federal court position:
…. Sessions (then a U.S. Attorney)called a white civil rights attorney who litigated voting rights cases “a disgrace to his race.” He addressed a (black) assistant U.S. attorney as “boy” and warned him, “Be careful what you say to white folks.” He admitted he thought the Ku Klux Klan was an “OK” organization until he learned that some of them smoked pot. Also, Sessions condemned the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American” and “Communist inspired,” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” (thanks to Afroarticles.com for that)
He also conducted an expensive, racially tinged and racially intimidating investigation into alleged vote fraud (similar to the ACORN red herrings we still hear about) that was so thin it was thrown out by the jury in near-record time.
Eight Senators thought that record was enough to disqualify him from a Federal judgeship. Amazingly, six did not, but a simple majority of eight was enough to keep him off the Federal bench. Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep him from becoming the Senator from Alabama, and his opposition to Sotomayor will probably just make him more popular with his base. Base, indeed!
OK, back to Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, whom Sessions feels are free of the fault of being influenced by “personal background, gender, prejudices, (and) sympathies.” These guys, put on the court by a crowd that alleges that it abhors “activist judges,” have repeatedly made law out of whole cloth, ignoring and overturning precedent to push a reactionary agenda that disempowers minorities, favors corporate persons over flesh and blood human beings, and removes the right of citizens to question, challenge, or even be informed about the activities of government–and big business. Their decisions don’t make sense or have any consistency outside of solidifying and spreading the hegemony of wealthy white males, now utterly terrified by the fact that Sotomayor, a woman, with her lower-class upbringing and Hispanic roots, is not one of them.
Of course, this panicky feeling is not limited to upper-class white men. There are plenty of women and poor people giving their power to the aristocrats who are ruining our planet to preserve their position, and they are all growing steadily more unreasonable as their position becomes less tenable. We have only to look at the rambling, incoherent resignation speech of Sarah Palin, or the ignoramuses who attempted to disrupt Kathleen Sibelius’s Philadelphia town hall meeting, to see that madness is afoot in the land. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the persistent chorus of delusionaries who insist that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus is not legally qualified to be President. When an individual gets tis out of touch with reality, we call them paranoid and disruptive and a court orders them medicated, if not outright incarcerated. At this point, we have a whole political party behaving that way, including hundreds of judges and legislators, and the solution is not so simple.
There is a real challenge for us Greens in this mob scene. If so many people are reacting so viscerally to a President and a health care plan that take great pains to kiss corporate ass, how could the kind of radical reform we Greens call for possibly be voted into power without provoking a coup, or at least an armed revolt?
There’s bad news, and there’s good news. The bad news (that’s also good news, really) is that we are going to have to be very patient and persistent if we expect to make any progress in changing American politics. We are not a mass media party, we are a personal party, a grassroots party, and what we believe and how we take care of business is something that therefore must be spread person to person, face to face. Many who supported Barack Obama have become aware, as Bill Maher put it, that “The Democrats are the new Republicans,” and are looking for a vehicle for real change that genuinely springs from, and remains controlled by, the grass roots. That would be the Green Party. And some of those foaming-at-the mouth Republicans are like Paul on the road to Damascus, stretched taut between their prejudices, their neuroses, and their highest ideals, completely primed for some kind of lightning bolt to strike them and turn them around 180 degrees. It happens.
Bob Barr, the former Georgia Congressman who kept Washington D.C. from implementing or even counting the votes for a hugely popular medical marijuana initiative, is a good example. Once considered one of the most reactionary people in Congress, Barr now works for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Marijuana Policy Project, and supports complete withdrawal from Iraq and repeal of the Patriot Act. Too bad he’s not in Congress any more! I’m not saying he’s a saint–he’s a Libertarian, not a Green– but he’s definitely evolved both politically and personally, and I believe there are many more people like him. We just need to start talking to each other, listening to each other, finding what we can agree on, and accepting each other as we are. The alternative ends in gunfire.
music: Richard Thompson, “You Can’t Win”