Empathy vs. The Alternative

So, here we go again. Another nominee for the United States Supreme Court and another opportunity for politicians to see who can sink the lowest, the fastest. Isn't this a great country?

Sadly, it is also a country with an extremely short attention span and little interest in its own history. The noise machine has cranked into high gear and is spewing more bile than necessary at President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. This time the buzz begins with concerns about the nominee being "empathetic", as if this will somehow irrevocably damage her ability to make rational decisions based on law and not emotion.

But, honestly, are all of the yakkers really unaware that anyone can search the web and come up with examples of a president praising his nominee's "empathy" (George H.W. Bush/Clarence Thomas) or a nominee (Samuel Alito), telling the Senate's Judiciary Committee that he was trying to provide a picture of who he was as a human being and "how my background and experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point..." Apparently, it is a good thing for a male nominee to be empathetic but dangerous when the nominee is female.

Then, it's on to "racism". It's being tossed about on cable news that Sotomayor said that "Latina judges are better than white, male judges." In fact, she was specifically referring to the importance of diversity on the court when deciding race and sex discrimination cases when she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a male who hasn't lived that life." This point of view is not outrageous and it is no different than accepting that Clarence Thomas' life experiences afford him a perspective on the less fortunate that may be different than other members of the Supreme Court.

So, if Sotomayor is not allowed to honestly discuss the positive impact that she feels her life experiences bring to her job as a judge, can I assume that there was similar outrage when Alito told the Judiciary Committee "when I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account." Was there an outcry from all of the corporate media yappers reporting on the hearing? Nope. It was all good.

Pardon me if I want my judges to be intimately aware of their family's history and how that history informs their own lives. It certainly beats the alternative of having a justice that, in an attempt to appear completely unfazed by his own history, goes to extremes to prove that his rulings are developed in a vacuum untouched by human emotion. To suggest that someone can not do their job in a professional and ethical manner while also being proud of and cognizant of their ethnic heritage, is ludicrous.

Empathy is always better than the alternative. Perhaps what has tripped the yapper's triggers is the possibility that a sound legal mind with a real world perspective might have a positive impact on a Court that almost uniformly sides with corporate and government interests. It will be interesting to see how many myths about Sotomayor can be repeatedly reported on the airwaves or if there is even one journalist with integrity and a spot on the nightly news who will do a public comparison of Sotomayor's comments and those of other justices. People really shouldn't have to go searching on the internet for such basic information.
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About author

Shambo is a former librarian and archivist. A political junkie, she spends way too much time digging for the truth that she used to think a vigorous and independent press should provide. She blogs occasionally at www.1716newstreet.com/.

Read the original article in The Smirking Chimp

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