May 28, 2009

Constitutional Compassion

The news is abuzz with President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee. Obama was one a professor of constitutional law. Everyone assumes he had a short list of nominees since before the election. He had publicly announced that his criteria included someone with "real world experience and empathy." A lot of people have taken offense at this, saying the law and constitution are no place for feelings like empathy.

It strikes me that the constitution is a direct act of compassion. It is predicated on empathy, the direct and full comprehension of another person's situation. Had we not had a care for the suffering of fellow human beings, we would have had very little motivation to leave feudalism behind. Sure, people wanted a good life for themselves, but they could have gone about it by each fighting to be on top. It could be, our ancestors were just smart enough to realize how counterproductive that was in an interdependent society.

To some extent we continue to operate under that reasoning, but in the last two-hundred and thirty-three years in this country has slowly, but consistently, come to recognize the unnecessary suffering of various marginalized groups and extended to them constitutional protections. It is only through empathy, the understanding of another's suffering, and compassion, the desire to alleviate that suffering, that this has been accomplished.

I hope President Obama understands this and I wish more people did.


john said...

People are worried that "empathy" is a code word for "making policy as a judge." Judges interpret the law, they do not make new laws. As a judge, it is not her role to decide if a law is fair or mean. That is why there is a blindfold on the statue of Justice.
If you were deciding the case of Humble Orphans vs. Evil Corporation, would Humble Orphans always win, or would the law dictate the winner?

Monica said...

Personally, I prefer Justice with both eyes wide open.

john said...

I failed to mention earlier that I think Ms. Sotomayor will be an excellent justice. Her record of decisions is outstanding and shows no bias that I can see. By focusing on her life story and trying to make her a pseudo-celebrity, the media is not doing her justice (get it? Justice? [crazed laughter]).

Monica said...

Okay. No more caffeine for John.

Peter said...

It's important to remember that the American Media is owned by Conservatives that want President Obama to fail. Please do not confuse Conservative Talking Points (i.e., Propaganda) as the voice of the American People. The Conservatives want to divide America as they have no plan to solve any of the far reaching problems we face.

President Obama has an unsurmountable task of fixing the many wrongs (and illegalities) perpetrated by the Bush Administration. m ,

Monica said...

The liberals have their own networks. It's all just as divided and the local networks pander to whichever party is larger in their local audience, thus reinforcing the incumbents. It's all very divisive and sad.