Sunday, May 31, 2009

White Men - and Justice Sotomayor

"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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 white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

I am a White Man, now 58 years old. I grew up in an environment which was heavily White and Upper-Middle Class. I can imagine Some White Men who may have experienced Some of what it might take to understand (better than I can) the life experiences of Women and People of Color. One former classmate grew up as the sole boy in a household with five sisters. Even with that experience, I doubt that he would say he "knew" what it meant to be "female".

Where White People grow up as a small minority (ethnically) in a community dominated by People of Color they may have perceptions of Race that May faintly be similar to what People of Color such as Justice Sotomayor has experienced. At the same time they would still face the realities that "Whiteness" is valued in our society.

Most Senators such as Lindsay Graham [, who has recently strongly criticized Sotomayor's statement (and asked her to apologize/renounce it): "Second, 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 white male who hasn't lived that life.", ]have not grown up in worlds where they logically would know and understand what it means to be poor, Of Color (or if Male) of being Female.

Reading part of Sotomayor's words (quoted above) I find her statement most understandable and logical! I can accept that Sotomayor may pose a "threat" to many. I can not however, accept that that "threat" is not a "good one" and one which - we White Men - readily deserve.

One need not agree with all of Sotomayor's words or positions to respect her and accept her as a good choice to be one of nine Supreme Court justices. It will be interesting to watch the Republican Senators - tip toe around - the issues of the nomination over the next 1-2 months. I have no doubt that as many as 20-30 of them will vote against her nomination. I will be surprised, however, if they try to filibuster. IF they do I would be shocked to find all the Republicans sticking together and/or any Democrats supporting the filibuster. It will also be interesting to see if the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee stick together and block a vote before the summer recess.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

It is simply amazing to learn how "racist" President Obama's new supreme court justice designate is as well as of all her other purported "liberal" tendencies which make her inappropriate for the Supreme Court. Our "Conservative Brothers" (some of whom are female of course) seem to feel that they have Strange rights to hold on to the reactionary positions of their brethren through the Supreme Court. One can only imagine what hysterics they will show if/when one of their fellow reactionaries retires from the Court.

It is also amusing to see how Republican Senators smell the winds of the present and future and are speaking a very different tune!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terrorism - Obama and Others - Am I Crazy?

I find it incredible that United States Presidents and other supporters of The Government have the audacity to say to all of us and the world that they have the responsibility and right to imprison individuals because they are "terrorists" or "enemy combatants", yet they need not have trials to face Specific Charges relating to what they allegedly have done that merits imprisonment.

I could understand, faintly, the idea that where the U.S. is "at war" with a specific country that there could be "prisoners of war". I can also understand arresting an individual for a specific crime such as "attempted murder".

It is totally crazy to me that employees of the U.S. Government or their hired hands can and do seize individuals in other lands and determine that they are "enemy combatants" imprisoning them outside of the United States. Those arrested then have virtually no rights to confront their accusers or otherwise defend themselves.

I try to imagine how we could accept the Chinese Government or perhaps the South Korean Government or any other government coming into the United States and arresting individuals whether citizens of their own country, the United States, or another country.

I try to imagine how we could accept any foreign government arresting individuals totally outside of its borders. Let's assume for a moment that the Iranian Government were to arrest an Israeli National in Turkey. How different that would be viewed than our utterances of "terrorist" or "enemy combatant" as a justification for imprisoning so many.

I really wonder Why we don't get it that we are a lightening rod for hatred and real terrorist incidents from so many groups, who's commonality often is only a hatred of The United States Government.

We, of course, say that We Must do what we do because of "the terrorist threat". It seems much more reasonable for me to believe that ultimately we are "the bully" and "the terrorists" of the world - not as individuals - but as a "machine" of civilian and military leaders and those who follow their orders.

I try to imagine How Many people have been killed (or threatened to be killed) by our supposed enemies. Similarly, I think of how many have been killed and will continue to be killed by U.S. military actions, "mistakes", and other clandestine actions of the CIA and others - perhaps contractors with our Government.

I can easily accept that there are governments in other countries such as Iran and North Korea who are "not good" at best. In Iran though, there seemingly are possibilities of positive change, and the craziness of One leader there is often portrayed as if He "runs everything" - when he doesn't. Iran - also has in part been a force "for good" in Iraq - as its interests have in significant ways been in congruence with what our aims should have been.

I also try to remember that we are the United States who:

1.) Stole our country from Native Americans who "owned it" and shared it with us,
2.) Stole Texas - and really the West - from Mexico
3.) Enslaved Blacks until 1865
4.) Denied Blacks their rights formally until the mid-1960s' - 100 years later,
5.) Put Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II
6.) Has overthrown foreign governments in much of the world because they had the audacity to support their own people against business and other interests in the U.S.
7.) Is the only country who has killed and maimed people with nuclear weapons
8.) Consistently supported - "bad guys" - as "our buddies" - such as significant forces and leaders in the Two Counties we are seemingly "at war" in today - turning on them when they refused to play along with us with our changed priorities.

Who are we to be condemning others as we do?! We've got plenty of work still to do at home before we can justifiably condemn the misdeeds of many others.

I hope that I live to see a day when we will really be humble as a nation and work in cooperation with many others throughout the world, no longer being "the bully". It would seem amazing when we might work towards consensus with much of the rest of the world.

In such a "dream world" I could imagine "terrorists" being arrested by "legitimate governments" working in cooperation with each other in congruence with The United States.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Kent and Jackson State - Killings - and Change

39 Years ago today- the killings of four students at Kent State University shook (particularly) college campuses in much of the U.S. Unlike today, when the word "killings' would signify a gun wielding "deranged" (usually) White Man, these were the National Guard killing students demonstrating against the War in Vietnam.

At that time (and subsequently) Kent State got far, far, far more publicity than the killings a week and a half later at Jackson State University in Mississippi - because the students were "normal" - e.g. White and Not Black. Racism - was clearly alive and vivid in those days.

The demonstrations then were really the last Huge ones of that era and there really hasn't been anything similar since. The following year there were smaller demonstrations with the invasion of Laos but they were mostly confined to places like Madison, Wisconsin - the "hot spots" - where I was in college.

Unfortunately the era ended in many, may ways badly. There was a reaction from the Right against "leftists" which Richard Nixon and others played upon eventually blaming - welfare mothers, Blacks, Gays - and "liberals" in general for their efforts to bring positive, progressive change to our country.

It was imagined and portrayed that equality - as in Civil Rights had been achieved and that now Blacks had to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" and Whites should not "feel guilty" - nor did they need to do anything more.

Unions were "the enemy" subtly and not-so subtly and business was "good".

Since that day we first moved with the Republican "liberals" becoming more and more extinct over time as "the middle" moved steadily to the Right. The "Dirty Tricks" of U.S. diplomacy which had been there with Kennedy and other Democrats became more blatant and often became the public and private norm for new values.

Today - looking back - we can see both Hope and Concern for the future. Many pin a lot of hopes upon Barack Obama (and to a lesser degree to the new Democratic majorities in Congress). Hopefully, we will learn from the many lessons we can take from the 1960's and other eras. Perhaps we can get away from Manifest Destiny and Papa Knows Best and really accept others within our own society and the world - learning from others, rather than trying to tell them what They should do.