Skip to main content

Oldie, 6/6/09: You can't pigeonhole what's personal

I suspect I'm not alone in keeping a running list of potential book titles in my head. One of those, which perhaps one day I'll actually write and publish, is called It's Always Personal.There's no such thing as "wholly objective" politics or ideology. The convictions that often turn into far-reaching public policy come from the personal experiences of one individual, who perchance connects with others who share similar experiences. When these people and their common bond find themselves in "the right place at the right time," you can end up with new paths in history.

My little thesis gets a boost from this article in the New York Times, comparing Supreme Court aspirant Sonia Sotomayor with the sitting 18-year veteran Clarence Thomas. Two minority Catholics, not too far apart in age, whose worldviews are at distant poles.

So what's personal? Experience and temperament.


Mr. Thomas learned he could rely only on himself. His father left when he was a toddler. A few years later, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents, dumping his possessions in grocery bags and sending him out the front door, he wrote in his autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son.”

Ms. Sotomayor also grew up without a father; hers died of heart problems when she was 9. But her mother was a sustaining force, supporting the family by working as a nurse. In a recent speech, Judge Sotomayor recalled her mother and grandmother chatting and chopping ingredients for dinner. “I can’t describe to you the warmth of that moment for a child,” she said. 


And what if these two histories were reversed? Isolate little Sonia from nurturing family connections, and put young Clarence in a warmer, more close-knit and positive-thinking family, and what would you get?

We'll obviously never know. I suspect that with such an upbringing, Sotomayor would still have carved a niche for herself, still identifying with the underdog and championing their rights -- if not at Princeton, then perhaps among less prestigious, more subversive company. And Mr. Thomas may have gained the confidence to push forward and join those elite "insiders" who so intimidated and frustrated him at Yale, rather than hanging back and feeling permanently isolated from everything he really wanted.

It is as pointless to speculate about something that will never be, as it is to dismiss such factors and expect any individual to "put aside" their personal experience when called to the bench. Neither Sotomayor nor Thomas wears blinders that render them incapable of seeing the other side of an argument. Both are highly intelligent and idealistic.

In the final analysis, both are human. No one can expect anything more or less.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Subway Journey Home

by The Urban Blabbermouth. Comments are welcome! ~ There is a ritual to theNew York City subway system. Once there, you lose your humanity.  You are transformed into a savage, brutal and selfish automaton.  Savage in that you push and shove other riders out of your way to get into the subway car.  Brutal in that you never excuse yourself for any atrocities that you commit to get in the subway car.  Selfish in that you never give up your seat to anyone, no matter how crippled or old or pregnant they are.  Automaton in that you never look at any one else as a human being.

Now there are certain strategies that you can employ to be a successful subway rider.  You can stand by the door and obstruct the way just to be selfish and ornery.  That strategy is designed to increase your standing with your fellow passengers by impressing them with how vicious you can be pushing back at people trying to push into the car.  Whenever I see this strategy employed, I immediately piggy back on it.  I move …

Gone Shopping

by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Dracula escorted his newly created undead aide into the store.

"...and you need to sleep in the daytime," he explained.

"But what are we doing here in Sleepy's Mattress store?" asked his aide. "I thought we slept in coffins."

"We are modern now," replied Dracula. "We use a mattress like anyone else. I tell you, after two hundred years of sleeping on rock and dirt, this is a joy. So much more comfortable and you don't have to haul it around from place to place."

"Amazing," said the aide.

"For a newbie like you, maybe you want to go traditional. Sleepy's has a Posturedic that will fit inside a coffin."

"What do you use?" asked the aide.

"I have a sleep-number bed. I love it. Mrs. Dracula can toss and turn and I don't feel it on my side."

"Now that you mention the ladies, I think I will skip the coffin. A moo…

I Swear!

by Vol-E

I've lived in the south for over 30 years. Having grown up as a New Yorker, there were some changes to get used to once I crossed the Mason-Dixon line.

Language was a big one. My parents were well-behaved in public, but behind the closed doors of our home, they taught me all kinds of interesting vocabulary words, as they took their everyday frustrations out on one another. "Jerk" and "bastard" were two of the earliest ones, but by the time I was about eight, I knew pretty much every one of George Carlin's pet no-nos.

It was only in college that I met people who were outspokenly offended by swear words. The ones that raised eyebrows initially were related to religion. I began to think twice about using "hell" and "damn," and was politely informed one day that "God's last name is not 'dammit.'" So I gradually began censoring myself a bit, which was probably a good thing, once I joined the work force. Macy…