Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor's Candor is Refreshing

In 1880, Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of America's most reknown jurists described the law this way, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics."

Apparently Sotomayor's critics disagree with Holmes. Her remark about wise Latina women being better judges than white men of the causes and cures of discrimination has caused great consternation in the rightwing blogosphere. How could she not bring her experience as a Bronx born-and-raised Puerto Rican to the bench? Isn't that the point of diversity? That out of our disparate stories we weave a basket strong enough to capture our diverse culture.

The subtext is clear, however. Only Latinas (and blacks) who disavow their connection to (and responsibility for) a shared minority American experience are trustworthy enough to hold high office. Thus Clarence Thomas and Alito get a pass, while Sotomayor is called a racist.

I can't wait for the hearings.

From the first of twelve Lowell Lectures delivered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on November 23, 1880, which were the basis for The Common Law.

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