As last week dragged on, the silly bully boys* of the U.S. Senate, seemingly without a clue,made an unwitting and witless spectacle of themselves with their brain-dead, slightly demented, endlessly looped and loopy questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I felt tremendous sympathy for Judge Sotomayor for being forced to endure trivial and bizarre questioning from our august body of “collegial” Senators.
I have also felt deeply ashamed to know that the world was watching as our “best and brightest” kept flailing away at the good Judge with the same tired questions taken out of context. For hour after endless hour various gentlemen foamed at the mouth, acting outraged and as though Mr. Obama had nominated the Village Affirmative Action Hire as opposed to what she is: a deeply intelligent woman with more federal judicial experience than any other candidate in about seventy years.
Though the conclusion – her ultimate confirmation as Supreme Court Justice – is basically foregone, the exercise of ritual abuse had to occur anyway. Why?
Because our esteemed and gentlemanly Southern Senators are bullies. When have you ever known a bully to pass on a chance to take the person in the “hot seat” down a peg or three? I could of course be wrong, but I contend that political targeting/abuse is much worse when the target is a non-Caucasian female. Or a gay person, or anybody outside the power elites.
And we wonder why we have problems in our schools! Any kid who happened to watch these hearings would definitely come away with a primitive sense of who holds all the power cards in politics and life these days. These gentlemen — for they are almost all men — are all rather alike — soft pinkish bodies, thinning wispy hair, with incredibly patronizing manners — or lack thereof. They are feeling very threatened these days. Their world is changing.
To know that those old Southern guys and their spineless Democratic counterparts are responsible for our national wellbeing gives me great pause. I found it passing strange — as I think the rest of the world might have — to watch what was the one chance for the public to hear the true voice of this remarkable woman thrown away by a bunch of petulant, sexist, racist bullies who instead used that week as a pointless exercise in ritual humiliation. Yeah, they’ve got some “‘splaining” to do, don’t you think, Miguel Estrada?
When I studied the Senate during my years at school, our texts spoke of the legislation passed by this particular branch of government as the apex of American political Group Thought. The Senate is presented in our schools as a body of adults capable of producing well- crafted legislation refined through skilled debate, each political party acknowledging the necessity of the other’s existence for purposes of balance.
That reality ended a long, long time ago. I’m not sure I believe that it ever really existed. The Senate in our history has been primarily a body of white men. Some of the Senators of both parties we have watched for years obstructing crucial legislation have been Senators for decades, aging in step with one another and not necessarily with the rest of the nation.
If age brings wisdom as its companion, and they are well-married within a Senator — as they must and should be — so much the better. However, with Senator Jeff Sessions, age has merely calcified his prejudices AND guaranteed him seniority on the very same Judicial Committee that rejected his own appointment to the Federal Bench due to his record of racist statements. Irony?
Perhaps, but Jeff Sessions seems to exist in an irony-free zone, where his comment on doing “that crack cocaine thing” with Judge Sotomayor now and forever will be taken out of context. He was speaking about the sentencing differentials between powder and crack cocaine, though our news comedians will make certain nobody will ever know this!
Certain things our children are or taught in school about the weighty and important responsibilities of the Senate took a hard hit last week. Any young person who could stomach watching the hearings witnessed a lumbering bunch of complete dinosaurs going around in clumsy circles. The worst of these was Senator Sessions. Why does our Legislative system reward old fools like him with Positions of Importance just for surviving longer than anyone?
Instead of being educated by watching dignified statesmen engage the Judge in meaningful dialogue, we saw them boil the Judge’s lengthy career to a few controversial but out-of-context comments. That is all they could manage, with malice aforethought and charity towards none. It was at best a lost opportunity, and at worst a debacle, and a dreadful mis-representation of the American spirit. Silly bully boys making lots of silly noise.
Our culture has become one marked by increased problems with abusiveness at school. We see occasional distressed articles about this issue, but I’d like to see more connecting the bullying that occurs in the public arena with the dramas that get played out in our homes and schools. Is it because in this century bullies like Rush Limbaugh fill the airwaves with bile, while our parents had Will Rogers and their grandparents had Mark Twain? That’s devolution.
What do you suppose this distinguished body has modeled to our young people during this last week? Seriously. Behind the sickly sweet false smiles relentless, grinding “I want to BREAK you” emotions poured from these Southern gentlemen. You could practically see the gnashing of teeth; ordinary politeness was clearly “mission impossible” for those guys as they kept bashing away at the same tired old arguments ad infinitum and ad nauseum. It was as though they desperately wanted that “meltdown” Senator Graham spoke about early on. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfrjBfmdxvM)
The Judge, however, behaved with grace, humility and good humor. Sometime during the mind-numbing, dreadful confirmation process, Senator Graham acknowledged that all that was happening was for the sake of political theater – what has happened to the concept of civil discourse in a civil society?
Lest we forget, this is an historic nomination; what a moment for American people of Latin heritage. What a moment for America! This is the first Supreme Court confirmation of the first person of Latin heritage by the first African American President of the United States of America. It’s really a shame that such a weighty and glorious moment was obscured by the ugliness of the verbiage hurled at Supreme Court Justice-to-be Sonia Sotomayor.
I felt a rush of inexplicable gratitude when the men stopped clubbing her with the “wise Latina” comment. I warmed to each Senator in turn as they deigned to speak to her in reasonably amiable tones. And then I felt a sick lurching in the pit of my stomach, recognizing as I do from experience the gratitude that an abused person feels for an abuser when the punishment, be it verbal or physical, stops.
America, we have just witnessed the ugly slap-down of a candidate for one of the highest offices in our land. What does this say about us as a culture? Why are we so surprised at the degeneration of manners in our society at large when those who are supposed to be the most mature act like the least of us?
* Tip ‘o the hat to depraved UK band The Tiger Lillies, whose song “Bully Boys” served up mad inspiration in the dead of night. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhrGspR0yQo