The President of Paradox
It will be an historic occasion when Sonia Sotomayor takes her seat. Assuming she's confirmed, she'll be the first woman of color and the first person from the Latino community to become a Supreme Court justice.
Announcing this, his first top court appointment, President Obama put it clearly enough: "When Sonia Sotomayor ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court of the land, America will have taken another important step towards realizing the ideal that is etched above its entrance: Equal Justice under the law."
It's pretty simple and kind of stirring stuff. There aren't royals and non-royals, just human beings. And those two words: Equal and Justice.
Equal. Equality is indivisible. It either is or it isn't. We learned that, from among others, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
Justice. Those blind, balancing scales -- they either balance or they're tilted. It's not rocket science.
It's hard not to be moved by Judge Sotomayor's story: from Puerto Rican parents in the Bronx to the highest court in the land. Just as the swearing-in of the first African American president inspired millions of Americans from all walks of life -- to wake up early and stand on a very frigid National Mall to watch his inauguration. So, people of all sorts feel good about the nomination of Sotomayor. As Obama said, it feels as if the nation's making progress.
But what a paradoxical day. At the very same time that one court was moving (possibly) towards an ideal; in another they were stepping back from it.
While the President was lifting up the nation's professed ideals in Washington, in California, justices approved discrimination against same sex -couples under the law, with only one dissent from the lone Democrat.
There aren't a lot of ways of going at this.
Separate isn't equal.
Justice is balanced or tilted.
If Barack Obama doesn't want to be remembered as the President of paradox, it's time he stood up and provided leadership. If you believe in those words etched above the Supreme Court entrance, Mr. President, stand up for all Americans to ascend those marble steps -- to marriage, to the court - Those words again are Equal Justice.
© 2009 The Nation