Two recent events – the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas – have crystallized, for me, what The Onion refers to as “Our Stupid Discourse.” These are both extremely important events, worthy to inspire serious conversation on the issues of life, death, race, judgement and responsibility.
But we’re not. Instead, we’re having a competition to see which group is most persecuted.
The popular political stereotype would have you believe that liberals and others on the Left claim victimhood as their own. So-called “Identity Politics,” in which groups define themselves as an oppressed class (such as “gay” or “black” or “female”) allegedly stifle debate by demanding “political correctness” (which, in my opinion, ends to boil down to a resentment from the other side that they can’t use derogatory terms, like “faggot” or “lady” without getting criticized for it). The Left, according to these arguments, expects the world to take care of the downtrodden, instead of teaching the downtrodden to take care of themselves.
That’s not the way these two debates play out. Let’s consider:
* Judge Sotomayoris an experienced juror with an impressive record. She graduated at the top of her class at both Princeton and Yale Law School. She was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, a man still recognized as a Republican.
However, she is also the child of Puerto Rican immigrants (which, since Puerto Rico is part of the United States, seems to me like saying my son is the child of Ohio immigrants), who grew up in a housing project in the Bronx. She overcame great emotional and financial hardship to succeed in school and in her career, and she has the audacity to suggest that her personal decisions might inform her cognitive process.
Specifically, she said that, just as a wise man and a wise woman would both reach the wise decision on the court, a wise Hispanic woman, “with the richness of her experience,” would reach the wise decision more often. This has the Right up in a lather about her “racism” or “reverse racism.”
Note to cede the point, but so what? Samuel Alito said something quite similar at his confirmation hearings, only in his case, he cited his experience as the child of Italian immigrants. And, not for nothing, but it’s not as if the opinions of white men have been shunted aside. There are still six of of them on the court.
* A crazy person murdered Dr. George Willet on Sunday. The murder took place in a church, as the doctor acted as an usher and his wife sang in the choir. The doctor was nationally famous because he was one of the few people who performed late-term abortions. In addition to his clinic, his home had been the object of public demonstrations by anti-abortion groups. Leading conservative figures in the media, including Bill O’Reilly, denounced him on the public airwaves.
All the evidence at this point indicates that the crazy person acted alone. He was an active participant on many anti-abortion Internet sites, but only as a commentator. He did not attend any meetings. He seems to have had few social connections to the so-called Pro-Life movement.
And yet, scarcely had Dr. Willet’s body grown cold before the anti-abortion groups were claiming that the real tragedy was not the death of an unarmed, law-abiding man IN CHURCH, but the possibility that their movement might get tainted by the actions of his killer (http://www.lifenews.com/nat5120.html).
Now, we come to my dilemma. It is my inclination to claim that the Right, in this case, are acting like weak little victims. I would like to find a word that reflects their childish whining.
Unfortunately, the word that leaps to my mind first is “Pussies.”
Why do we think this word is an insult? I know of two meanings for the word. One means a cat. I own a cat, and she is no pushover. She doesn’t whine when she wants something. She demands it. She takes it. She assumes she is the most important creature in the room, and she has the confidence one needs to sleep all day, any place she wants. This, to me, is not acting like a pussy.
The other meaning has to do with lady-parts. Not for nothing, but this is not a weak part of a woman’s anatomy. Mine pushed a fully-formed formed human being into the world. It has other uses as well, but, again, none of these functions seem to me to be related to weakness or whining.
Of course, calling each other names is not a useful style of political disagreement. You and I, dear reader, may disagree on both of these issues I’ve raised. It’s possible that we can disagree in a way that is informative to us both, allowing us each to learn something from another perspective. Through these conversations, I’ve changed my mind in the past, and I’d like to believe I’m open-minded enough to change my mind in the future.
It’s also possible to disagree with someone without alienation. For example, Mike Gold and I disagree about the right of cigarette makers to advertise their products on the public airwaves. Mike thinks its a First Amendment issue, and I think the public owns the airwaves. We disagree, but he has yet to call me a Fascist, and I haven’t accused him of being pro-cancer. Instead, in the finest Talmudic tradition, we bring our opinions to the table, take a knife, and split hairs.
Perhaps this is what the Right means when it condemns political correctness. My willingness to look at the actual meaning of the word does, indeed, limit my ability to use it as an insult. And when you have no confidence in your argument, perhaps insults are all you have.
Media Goddess Martha Thomases was thrilled to learn that Judge Sotomayor lives on her block. Her husband was less delighted.