Thursday, May 28, 2009

Taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals.

One more thing regarding the Sotomayor nomination...

I noticed yesterday that the Wall Street Journal and other conservative mouthpieces had taken up the cry against "empathy" which Sotomayor had at one point argued is an important trait for a judge to embody. The general argument is trying to use pigeonhole Sotomayor into the larger conservative frame that liberal judges are wishy-washy emotional basket cases while conservatives are cold, rational purveyors of the rule of law.

I find the argument against empathy kind of puzzling. The opposite of empathy isn't objective reason. Consider that the most famous people who lacked empathy were guys with names like Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer. In our society those that lack empathy for other living things could generally be classified as "sociopaths," not brave defenders of reason above emotion.

There might be something to saying that all conservatives are sociopaths to a greater or lesser degree. That's not an argument I'm making here. I'd point out for example that conservatives have occasionally demonstrated great shows of empathy towards others, although usually it's finely focused on the rich, powerful or only those that they share direct personal experience (James Brady.)

On the other hand there's the example of the conservative Dick Cheney. It's clear to me that other different circumstances, were he not to have had the mechanisms of the federal government at his disposal to torture and maim others, Dick Cheney would have amassed a body count one way or the other. Had he been a video store clerk instead of a Secretary of Defense and Vice President I don't doubt for second that he would've eventually made the national news due to a horrific discovery in the freezer of his apartment. Cheney is quite clearly a sociopath.

Empathy is that which separates man from animal, christian from gentile, liberal from conservative and decent Supreme Court justice from Antonin Scalia. The idea that a judge that actually understands the implications of how she rules to all the citizens of this land would somehow be a bad something is the greatest form of lunacy.

On an unrelated note I have a review of "Drag Me To Hell" up at Swiney's place.


Life As I Know It Now said...

Empathy is considered a womanish trait and so is therefore considered bad-not manly enough. I DO think a case can be made that republicans lack empathy for anyone other than themselves ;~)

Lockwood said...

Liberality nailed it: the issue is not "empathy" per se, the issue is what the candidate is perceived to be empathetic with. Empathetic to the bibble-belters? Super! CEO's and corporate interests? Even better! Middle class, who've felt the trap door drop out from under them, as the noose tightens around their neck, or teh gayz? Not so much.

So the issue isn't an ability to feel other's pain, it's who's pain you're able to feel.

BTW, I'm swiping your gay marriage banner... I've been meaning to for a while. And thanks for the comments earlier... I've been feeling kind of lonely over there.

Arkonbey said...

Lockwood's comments remind me of something I thought of recently:

Liberals have empathy for many people, including those they've never met and likely will never meet (we'd drive by a farmer's flooded field and feel sorry for that farmer, say). We do this because we understand that THEY might be US in one way or another;

Conservatives feel empathy only for those within their tight circle of family and friends. They have a clear view of THEM and US. It's sociopathy, but on a sort of cultural scale.

Oh, you think the empathy thing is stupid? Try getting angry because she'd like her name pronounced correctly

Randal Graves said...

Hey man, watch the potshots at video store clerks. I've never killed anyone and I've got the basement devoid of corpses to prove it. Have some womanish empathy. ;-)

Don Snabulus said...

I hope Sotomayer is liberal as heck because she is going to be in there for a while. The GOP knows they can't do anything about it so they resort to hysterics. Hopefully they keep burying themselves with it, cuz it is pathetic. (I will start empathizing with them when they can't filibuster anymore...:D)

Sotomayor has more experience than any candidate in the last 70 years and she was appointed by Bush 41 to her federal judge gig.

Ubermilf said...

It seems to me that the American public has had quite enough of cold, hard, mean and uncompromising.

I think their posturing is falling on deaf ears.

Dean Wormer said...


That makes perfect sense in the republican frame that democrats are somehow emasculated and wimpy. It's funny because the most "macho" guys I know are the most insecure.


The gay marriage banner I got from Fran and it's meant to be shared. I'd comment on your blog everyday if I had the time. It's one of my favorite. :)


It's almost like they're lacking when it comes to imagination, since that's an intrinsic part of empathy.

That dustup over the pronunciation is beyond asinine. These people are crazy.


I find it hard to believe there isn't at least the body of a neighborhood cat buried somewhere on your premises.


Sotomayor has more experience than any candidate in the last 70 years and she was appointed by Bush 41 to her federal judge gig.Great point.

Randal Graves said...

Oh, I'd off a filthy human before I'd ever harm a pet.

Dr. Zaius said...

I'm with Randall. Unless it was a pet human. That would be kind of silly.

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