Friday, August 7, 2009

Show us the work.

Another historic week with the Senate voting to confirm Ms. Sotomayor as an Associate Justice.

In one feld swoop – and maybe you can say you heard it here first – Obama has possibly locked up a key demographic as he begins his campaign for re-election.

I’ve said many times that the GOP needed to reach out and court Hispanics, Latinos – you pick the most politically correct way to refer to this fast-growing diverse group of citizens – and Obama has yanked this rug right out from under them.

Regardless of her political and judicial ideology Sotomayor ensures that Obama and those who follow his coattails in the next election will be better thought of by Hispanics - a demographic that initially, Hillary had better numbers with than he.

Only time will tell how Sotomayor will turn out as a judge.

One other issue that I guess now is no longer an issue – her ‘wise Latina’ comment.
She was of course raked over the conservative coals for that one. I guess it was about all anyone could really find in her track record and she didn’t offer up much grist during her confirmation hearings. But I suppose she offered up enough to get 9 Republican Senators to vote Yea for her.

Here’s my take on that: everyone one of us comes at any decision with a bias; a political, religious, world view that has been shaped and formed by many influences: our up-bringing; the place and culture under which we grew up, our education (or lack there-of) and in general all of our life experiences have gone into shaping the kind of person we are, how we think and how we act. To ask anyone to somehow dismiss all that and approach every issue or decision with a so-called “tabula rasa” (I still remember my college philosophy courses) is impossible.

A side-road using math. I used to be pretty good at it until I began to reach the higher levels like trig, calculus etc. I might somehow make my way to the right answer but professors and teachers wanted to see how I got there. “Show me your work” was a common refrain. If I couldn’t show that I took the right route or at least that there was more than one way to get to the right answer, my score got knocked down – sometimes 50% even though 2+2 really does equal 4, I just wasn’t able to show how I figured that out. Sometimes I even got partial credit for a wrong answer if I at least went about getting it in the right way and could show how I derived it.

In much the same way perhaps we just need to show how we come to our decisions and be honest about it.

Math is much easier. 2+2 still equals 4. But life isn’t nearly so linear or easy. You and I can have very differing opinions on issues and the good (and vexing) thing is that we can both be right and/or we can both be wrong. It is rarely as clear-cut as a math problem.

But if we know and understand how we arrived at those decisions we may not be able to change the other persons mind, but at the very least should have earned respect for arriving at our position with some knowledge and not simply blind prejudice.

This is not easy and could become a slippery slope but I’ve been thinking about this idea lately and how it applies to politics and maybe even religious issues.

It is OK to stake out your position and hold firm even in the face of criticism, ridicule etc. But know how you got there or at a minimum, be honest and say it’s because you heard so-and-so voice that view.

How does all this tie back to the Supreme Court? I’m OK with Sotomayor bringing all her “Latina wisdom” to the table and to the cases she now gets to read and vote on; some of which may affect our country and us individually for years to come. I’d like her to be honest about her decision making process. Let’s see her work.

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