Saturday, August 08, 2009

Even Wiser Than We Thought

The beginning of the Wise Latina Era (WLE) of the Supreme Court does not go unnoticed by the Pioneer Press. Headline from their objective, dispassionate reporting of this news:
Sonia Sotomayor: A fresh voice and view for the nation's highest court
I can feel the cool, refreshing, and wise breeze blowing in from the High Bench already.

You may think this article is a resurrection of the idea that race correlates with superior cognitive abilities and behavioral traits. You know, that notion Sonia Sotomayor espoused for so many years.
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.
It is true that her belief in this racial determinism has waned recently. Coincidentally during a time when it became a potential impediment to her advancement to the Supreme Court. In fact, she transformed into an ardent denier of this belief in her confirmation hearings. She told us she was merely an objective umpire, calling the balls and strikes according to the rules. Race has nothing to do whatsoever with how she would judge anything. Now that's what I call a fresh voice coming from Sonia Sotomayor.

Jump forward to this week, she gets confirmed to a virtually untouchable lifetime appointment by the US Senate. What do you know, those old ideas are becoming popular again. At least among her supporters in the press. (Sotomayor thus far has wisely refrained from a public acknowledgement of a racialist reawakening).

From the Pioneer Press (via the Chicago Tribune):
Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as a Supreme Court justice, will bring something new and different to the court, and far beyond the fact that she will be its first Latina.
There it is, race bringing something "new and different" to the court. I wonder what that is? We can't be sure, since the reporter isn't saying. Just something new and different. Could be a good recipe for salsa verde. Could be a killer impression of Rita Moreno. Could be wisdom.

But let there be no doubt, her race is bringing something to the Court. Which directly refutes the Justice's own statements that it will matter for absolutely nothing in how she comes to her legal judgments. Oh well, hope and change spring eternal in the press.

Interestingly, this article doesn't stop with just crediting race for a fresh, new approach to Constitutional law. Sotomayor brings things "far beyond" her Latina status. There are apparently a host of other personal characteristics which will affect her legal judgments that we previously didn't know about.
She will be the only justice whose first language was not English.
She's a wise multi-linguist. One can see how this will help her decide cases related to interpretations of the Constitution, which, as we all know, was originally written in Hindic-Urdu.
She has been diabetic since childhood, a medical condition that is classified as a disability under the federal law that forbids discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments. Disability-rights advocates have suffered some big defeats in the court in the past decade, and they have high hopes for her.
A wise diabetic. Finally, an end to the "Non-Diabetics Only" signs in the lunch counters and city buses in this country. Now if only the Erectile Dysfunction community could get their man on the bench, we could start to call this country truly free.

Sotomayor is also a divorced woman . . . .

A wise divorcé. Wasn't that a Cole Porter musical? Checking . . . . nope, that was The Gay Divorcé. A level of wisdom we still have to wait for, perhaps with a future Obama nominee.
. . . . who has no children but a close relationship with an extended family. She is a modern woman with a nontraditional family," said Sylvia Lazos, a law professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. "She is much more reflective of contemporary American society than the other justices like Alito and Roberts."

She was referring to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom are married and have two children.
A wise non-breeder. It is refreshing to get beyond those married with kids anachronisms like Alito and Roberts. As any parent will tell you, raising children and being responsible for educating and civilizing the next generation usually leads to a severe loss of wisdom.
Sotomayor's personal finances look more like contemporary America as compared with her new and wealthier colleagues at the Supreme Court. According to friends, Sotomayor has struggled to pay her mortgage and her credit card bills, and her financial disclosures show she has no substantial savings or stock portfolio.
A wise financial incompetent. Finally, a personal characteristic a majority of Americans can identify with.

I have to say this resumé line reminds me of a scene from The Bonfire of the Vanities. Sherman McCoy and his wife at a swank Manhattan cocktail party, encountering a prestigious guest:
SHERMAN: I want you to meet Aubrey Buffing.

JUDY: Who?

SHERMAN: The poet. He's on the short list for the Nobel Prize. He has AIDS. You'll love him.
Maybe in the future, all Supreme Court nominations can be announced the same way. "Sonia Sotomayor. She's a Latina, she has diabetes, she's divorced, no kids, she has trouble paying her mortgage and has amassed no substantial savings, you'll love her."

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