Supreme Irony

Supreme Court 1Be careful what you wish for.

With the U.S. Congress practically catatonic these days and few laws being passed, people have tended to push their interests to the Supreme Court for decision-making. In the flurry of decisions announced in the last weeks of the just-ended term, this thought kept entering my mind: The Supreme Court giveth and the Supreme Court taketh away. Whether you considered a particular ruling a “giveth” or a “taketh-away” depended on your ideological bent.

In general, commentators seemed to feel that more decisions leaned toward pleasing those with a liberal bent. And yet those people were unhappy with the rulings that pleased those with a conservative bent.

That’s life in a sharply polarized society, and all that’s left for those who may have been unhappy about the way things went is – as the old Brooklyn Dodgers used to say in the years when they were unable to win a World Series – “Wait till next year!” Or in the case of the Supreme Court, next term, which begins the first Monday in October.

Supreme Court 2

All the News You Can Absorb

“Wow! What a week for the news.”

That was how I’d planned to start this post. Until I read Gail Collins’ column in Saturday’s New York Times. “Ed!” I wailed. “Gail Collins stole my lead!”

Collins wrote: “Wow, Supreme Court – what a week…” And after some comments on Republicans’ reactions, she added “The Roberts Supreme Court is on a roll. Gay marriage, national health care and a surprising vote of support for the Fair Housing Act. Great job, guys!”

president at eulogy 2My “Wow! What a week…” was intended to be followed by acknowledgement of the momentous Court rulings, followed by my admiration for the dignity and grace with which the families in Charleston, SC handled the horrific killing of their loved ones in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and wind up with my delight for the masterful eulogy President Obama delivered at the funeral for that church’s pastor. And the fact that he broke into singing “Amazing Grace.” Rachel Maddow’s program on MSNBC turned the entire second half of the newscast to uninterrupted video of the president’s speech which commentators are now calling “one of his presidency’s most impassioned reflections on race.”rainbowhouse

If I’d left the newscast that night and made my way to my desktop computer to write what I’d planned, then Gail Collins would have had to steal from me. But instead, I convinced Ed to join me in watching a streaming of “The Butler,” a film I’d watched the night before, even though at two hours in length it might strain my husband’s Friday night endurance. “It’s about the times in which we’ve lived,” I urged him. The movie was inspired by the real-life story of Eugene Allen, a longtime butler in the White House who is played in the film by Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker. We both watched it, me for the second time, transfixed.

And now today’s paper tells me that my church, the Episcopal Church, has elected an African-American man for the first time as its presiding bishop. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina succeeds the current presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was the first woman to lead the 1.9 million member church, the U.S. body of the Anglican Communion with 80 million members worldwide. As such, Jefferts Schori was the first woman to lead an Anglican national church.

We have indeed lived in transforming times.

Good for You, Justice Ginsburg!

Sexism even on the Supreme Court? Why am I not surprised?  Justice Ginsburg

In a New York Times article by Adam Liptak, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is shown comparing differences in the court’s rulings on gay rights cases with those involving gender. The gay rights rulings are replete with soaring language about “equal dignity” and endorse values of “liberty and equality,” while those dealing with gender issues seem to indicate that the court has not fully embraced, in her words, “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.” She noted, Liptak writes, that “the court’s five-justice conservative majority, all men, did not understand the challenges women face in achieving authentic equality.”

Those challenges are ones that have dogged the 81-year-old Ginsburg her entire life, from attending Harvard Law School as one of nine women in a class of more than 500 to graduating from Columbia Law School and being denied jobs with law firms or judicial clerkships because she was a woman. As a professor at Rutgers School of Law she was informed her pay would be less than her male colleagues because her husband, also a lawyer, had a good job.

Before becoming a judge, Ginsburg was a prominent women’s rights attorney, and yet, on the Supreme Court, Liptak writes, she “has suggested that her male colleagues sometimes do not hear a woman’s voice, including her own. In a 2009 interview with USA Today, she said the other justices, who were then all men, sometimes ignored the arguments she made at their private conferences.” She would say something but it would not be focused on until someone else said the same thing.

It’s been a lot less lonely for the justice now with the addition of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, but their inclusion has not kept the court from delivering devastating setbacks in cases involving equal pay, medical leave, abortion and contraception, culminating, as the Times article points out, “in a furious dissent last month from the court’s three female members.”

Some liberals are urging Justice Ginsburg to retire so President Obama can appoint her replacement before his term ends, thus assuring that a liberal voice will not be lost. But the justice says she has no intention of doing so as long as her health and intellect remain strong. And good for her.  It’s supposed to be a lifetime appointment after all, so quit trying to push her out. Instead, perhaps those people should direct their efforts toward assuring that the one who will be doing the appointing shares the same philosophy. Imagine what a liberal majority could accomplish.