The word empathy stirs up images of understanding, sensitivity, and the ability to vicariously identify with the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another. The expression, in some circles, is linked to the promotion of the belief that those who suffer have an inherent right to receive reparation, either in the form of prerogative, or title.
Yet, in America today a compelling life story can still lack impact if not coupled with a diverse background. Empathy birthed from hardship, experienced as a minority, can serve as the ultimate resume requirement for the highest of public office. Although unconstitutional as a standard to select political leaders or to make legislative or judicial decisions, in the current political climate empathy, tied to diversity, is a perfect synthesis.
Liberal belief is that only someone from a distinct heritage can identify with the struggles of those from a similar background. One example where empathy and diversity have catapulted an individual to stratospheric career heights is the Latina woman confirmed to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.
Obama expressed that he views the, “… quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples hopes and struggles, an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” All qualities that sound eerily like Obama might have been considering Oprah Winfrey before he settled on Sotomayor.
President Obama chose Sonia Sotomayor, as a contender to replace Justice Souter, based on her personal story, ethnicity and gender. Obama’s response to her was apparently an empathetic one based on a background, which had the components to insure the kind of predisposed decision-making Obama considers equitable and fair.
Judge Sotomayor is a minority woman who is being portrayed as someone who valiantly elevated herself from the throes of a “drab yellow kitchen” in Bronxdale, NY to the Supreme Court confirmation process. And, she did it with an insulin needle in one hand and a Sabrett’s hot dog in the other. To add impact to her candidacy, low economic status added splashes of color to a gripping, made for TV, tearjerker. In empathetic America, where humble upbringing triumphs over credentials. Sonia’s Latina woman story qualified her to be considered for a lifetime appointment to America’s highest court, where her sympathy will have national influence.
When choosing Sotomayor, Obama overlooked those on the Left who have, “…expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.” Obama’s willingness to ignore her weaknesses underscores his faith in Sotomayor as someone who can both inspire and extend empathy from the bench.
Sotomayor’s empathetic legal philosophy has embroiled her in questionable, activist decisions and repeated racist statements. Her apologists defend these accusations by prefacing her judicial history with a recap of her “great American story.” This is done in an effort to distract from her record. Moreover, they repeatedly enforce her poignant saga by reminding everyone that she would be the first Latina woman on the court. Combining empathy and diversity serves up the perfect mind numbing cocktail for a cautious public’s consumption.
Sotomayor defenders use touching narrative as justification for her confirmation. The fact that she grew up in a Bronx ghetto has been elevated to the level of an Ivy League education and takes priority over judicial competence, fairness and adherence to the Constitution. The charming whimsy of a candidate who loves New York baseball and drew inspiration from Nancy Drew and Perry Mason cancels out the negativity of racism, unfair judgment and gender discrimination.
The nomination and confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor is a symbolic demonstration of diversity, gender and empathy politics. In anticipation of Sotomayor’s assured meteoric rise to the highest court, “wise Latina women” everywhere are hugging each other, dabbing moistened eyes and preparing to clink glasses filled with coquito. The only thing the proceedings lacked were the addition of a soaring string orchestra, a slide show of the Bronxdale housing projects and the reading of Sonia’s moving childhood journal.
The confirmation process of Sonia Sotomayor highlighted and revealed the fact that empathy takes primacy over the oath of office for a Supreme Court Justice, which says,
“I, Sonia Sotomayor, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Judge under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
A dichotomy has surfaced for Americans to consider. The empathetic choice of Sonia Sotomayor was made with respect toward all things a Supreme Court justice should disdain when deciding the law. Sotomayor cannot exercise the empathy she was recruited to implement without ignoring the oath she is slated to take.
Not one Senator asked the question, how does a Supreme Court justice solemnly swear to disregard the very empathetic things in others, which were the basis of her consideration for nomination? How does a Supreme Court justice, who has failed to be impartial in cases on the lower courts, with empathetic respect to a person’s race and gender, now be trusted, under oath, to “discharge and perform all the duties” of a Constitution that takes none of these things into consideration?
Rest assured those questions will not be addressed because in Barack’s O-merica unfair judgment, irresponsible comments and racist statements exhibit the type of judicial temperament he reveres. Sympathetic stories take precedence over Constitutional fidelity. The ability to overlook Constitutional parameters and the willingness to inject prejudice into judgments are highly touted pre-requisites to be considered for a seat on the court President Obama’s election has given him the power to fill.
Judges pledge to be “no respecter of persons.” Yet, activist judge Sotomayor has shown partiality and favoritism in her decisions with respect to both gender and ethnicity. Sotomayor has exhibited an outstanding ability to mete out inequity. This bias deems her the textbook candidate to exemplify presidential disregard for the Supreme Court oath of office, as well as the contents of the American Constitution, Obama has openly defined as “fundamentally flawed.”
Sotomayor will be vested in black robes and ascend those lofty marble steps to mete out Obama-style empathetic justice. Sonia could have saved us the trouble and just shared hardscrabble memories with the confirmation committee in Spanish. As the Constitution took a back seat to empathetic diversity and the hearings ceased, formalities aside, approval should have been based solely on Sonia Sotomayor’s proficiency with the alveolar trill.
The Senate approval of una juez de la corrte suprema Sonia Sotomayor is poised to bestow on America the type of “caring,” activist judge the Obama administration demands. Moreover, her confirmation will concurrently provide ample copies of an unsympathetic, straightforward United States Constitution, which henceforth can be used by the American majority as kindling to ignite backyard barbecue pits across the nation.