Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wise Latina

The Republican spin machine has an often effective tactic - find out your opponents strenghts and turn them into weaknesses. But seriously folks, anyone who says "summa cum laude" at Princeton back in the day when women weren't really embraced as students is somehow a negative when picking one of the 9 people who ultimately determine the rule of law in this land? Someone who makes that a negative is not someone I find credible.

Some pasty old white man was on TV mocking her for spending summers catching up on US cultural literacy, which is also willfully not getting the point. (Thankfully the Daily Show was on the case, showing that the only appropriate time for adults to read children's literature is when the country is under attack.) Having not grown up on the same children's stories, Sotomayor realized she wasn't getting some references and set about to learn them on her own time. Anyone who finds that somehow less-than should submit to me exactly what they did with every summer vacation from college, and how they wound up getting every job they were in until age 25 or so. If you worked for your father (or mother, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or cousin) I will immediately discard your opposition unless your relative was in a different country. I will give more credence to objectors who have traveled, studied, or lived abroad in a country whose native language is not English.

The "wise latina" reference was in a pretty large paragraph in a speech where she was asked to speak about gender roles in affecting out lives. You know what? Someone who grows up as part of a marginalized group - whether or not they're a minority - has different fundamental assumptions about how daily life is lived than do people who grow up in the domninant cultural group. Most distinctly, Gavin de Becker states this in The Gift of Fear (paraphrased):
    Men dating new women are most afraid the woman will laugh at them.
    Women dating new men are most afraid the man will kill them.
Think for a moment how that dichotomy informs the decisions you make about every day life. Where are you keys when you walk to your car? Where are the dangerous spots to avoid when walking alone? What is significant about the eyes, throat, and groin? Who is the person you relay information to about your date before you go out to meet someone new? If you can't answer these questions or wonder why I ask them, then I need you to sit out the next few rounds of staffing on the Supreme Court.

"Well, that's unfair to men." That's as may be. However for 200 years, it was unfair to women and minorities not to be represented on the bench. Not because the all white, all male justices were evil, weren't empathetic, or didn't care. But because there were and are women qualified for the position that never had a chance. And these people are interpreting laws that affect everyone. Women and minorities are going to have a different experience about how, exactly, the laws work in reality than a white man will. This experience allows insight to alternatives when the experienced person is reflective and lives an examined life, which adds value and richness to the understanding of the court. So yeah, I'm sorry. Old white men? You need to sit out a few rounds. You've got us outnumbered 7 to 1 to 1. Until we get some balance to represent the country a little more, you'll probably be off the short list. But that's no less fair then being the only ones on the short list for 200 years, even if that wasn't you, specifically, on the list.

And in case I didn't write about this before, "What about Harriet Myers?" you ask. She was a feint. She was never a serious contender. She was not a constitutional lawyer. Given the number of constitutional lawyers that do exist, there was no need to draw from a pool outside that number unless what you wanted to do was put up a female candidate for the express purpose of having your opposition knock her out for being not quite up to par so you can ram home your middle aged white guy (Roberts) who was your real pick all along, saying "well, *you* rejected the woman, not *me*" which is exactly why you picked a woman who wasn't an appropriate choice.

I have no idea if Sotomayor will vote for or against women's issues or the issues of people whose skin is less than translucent. I do think she's capable, hardworking, introspective, cares to do her job well, and has an astonisingly appropriate experience base. As near as I can tell, she's about the perfect choice. I wish her long life and good health, and you can ask me again in 10 years if I like her judgments. I suspect that there will be some I don't like, but on the whole I think her inputs will make our country stronger. Which is what this is all about anyway.

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