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The Tragi-comedy of Sonia Sotomayor


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The Tragi-Comedy of Sonia Sotomayor

by Michael S. Rulle Jr. sonia-sotomayor-barack-obama.jpg


“I’m looking through you, where did you go? I thought I knew you, what did I know? You don’t look different, but you have changed. I’m looking through you, you’re not the same.” — Lennon/McCartney: “Rubber Soul,” 1965


When Sonia Sotomayor was nominated in May, I wrote a satirical essay for Big Hollywood called The ‘Magic Latina’. The title was a send up of the “Magic Negro,” or “Magical Negro,” a fictional stereotype common in film and literature. The “Magic Negro” has been criticized by white and black commentators alike. Blacks, most famously Spike Lee, but many others, view the role as ultimately degrading. As Rita Kempley, writing for DVRepublic, said about the “Magic Negro,” “What’s the deal with all the holy roles?” The core of the critique is that the characters are given special powers and/or underlying mysticism. It is not that the characters per se are so bad. The perception is that this kind of character, the selfless and powerful, insightful, and sometimes magical being, is always black, has no “interior life”, and is always serving white people. To name a few at random, they include such famous stars as Hattie McDaniel (”Gone with the Wind”), Sidney Poitier (”The Defiant Ones”), Morgan Freeman (”Shawshank Redemption,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Bruce Almighty”), and Laurence Fishburne (”The Matrix”).


For those fixated on this kind of thing, once you get this thought in your head, it is difficult to get it out. As I stated in my last essay, the critics have a point, but it also seems strained. They really go too far and can appear paranoid. There are many characters in cinema and television of this type who are white (Simon Baker as “The Mentalist” comes to mind, having just seen the show last night). If Morgan Freeman is a “Magical Negro” in “Bruce Almighty” (according to Rita Kempley), then surely Christian Bale is the “Magical Caucasian” in Batman. One would have thought it difficult to see the role of God played by a talented black actor as racist.


There are also countless black actors playing roles with no “magical” powers. It is almost silly to name them. Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Cuba Gooding and Halle Berry are just a few. The concept, while having some validity, is over done by those who promote its persistence. As true ethnic and racial equality (legally, politically, and sociologically) has become a virtual reality in America, there seems to be a simultaneous political movement to keep identity politics alive and well. In fact, it is a growth business.


What does all of this have to do with Sotomayor? And why is it a “tragi-comedy”? We now know Sotomayor spent years promoting an odd racial concept, which I parodied in the “Magic Latina.” She has said:


“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging”. Also, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who has not lived that life.”


Sotomayor, ironically, embraced this “Magic Negro” concept by fixating on race, gender and ethnicity as “a”, or even “the” key ingredient in attaining “wisdom,” in this case, judicial wisdom. Clever people might say, “…of course those factors affect judgment.” But so might the fact that we studied math or history; or that we are tall or short; or that we are from Michigan and not Ohio; or that we were born in 1950 instead of 1960; or that our IQs are 120 and not 110; or that we are obsessed with advancement to the exclusion of all else. There are an infinite number of things which go into who and what we are.


The goal of law is to establish an objective standard, however difficult that may be and however difficult that is to put into practice. The “means” by which a Judiciary seeks objectivity, is through the use of Reason. Not intuition, faith, emotion, symbolic thinking, or, as the president so foolishly said, “empathy.” It does not matter that there can be different interpretations. The idea is one must use the faculties of reason to try and achieve a “blind result.” Further, why single out “gender and national origins” as the special differentiating factors? Watching and reading some of Sotomayor’s speeches on this topic over the years is cringe inducing. Of course, during her questioning last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, she denied any knowledge of such views. These were all just bad word choices and mangled speeches that just somehow got tangled up in blue. She claims not to have ever believed such nonsense. “Her voice was soothing, but the words weren’t clear.”




History is partially a story of subjugation and conflict. It still persists today in obvious places around the world. Racial, religious, and ethnic conflict also existed in the United States. But Hispanics take a big league back seat to Native Americans and African Americans on that score. Frankly, I cannot see much of a difference between what Italians experienced up until the 1960s and what Hispanics experienced up until the 1980s. In fact, once you hold “the generation” constant-i.e., how many years ago your ancestors immigrated here, there is no ethnic bias to speak of against Italians or Hispanics. My four grandparents came from Italy around 1910 and I know their stories. The experience of Italians obviously does not compare to slavery or Jim Crow. And neither does the experience of Hispanics. The “ethnic conflict” issue today with Hispanics is really an illegal immigration Mexican problem, not a racial or ethnic problem. If Sweden were south of the US and we had such unfettered illegal immigration of Swedes, Chuck Shumer might today be crying about some woman nominee named Helga. (Yes, I realize Sotomayor is Puerto Rican, not Mexican).


But in the game of racial politics, a teary eyed Senator Shumer can see a modern day Rosa Parks when he looks at Sonia Sotomayor; while Dick Durbin sees only a “white man” when looking at Sam Alito. The whole issue, in one sense, is comical. I think I can speak expertly on this topic. I am related to several Hispanic immigrants and am even a father to half Hispanic/half Italian children. I am uncle and/or godfather to a few “all Hispanic” children of immigrants, as well. This trick was accomplished by marrying my wife, a “Hispanic” who emmigrated from Cuba (and who grew up in far worse circumstances in this country than Ms. Sotomayor). I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that there are few groups who adapt faster to being “instant Americans” than children of Hispanic immigrants. Just add water and stir. Yet my children, nephews and nieces can “check the Hispanic box” on their college applications and presumably get beneficial treatment. It is a joke.


Affirmative action policies were designed in the 1960s to address real racism against Black Americans. Somehow, these policies, originally designed to correct past discrimination of Black people, have been allowed to be glommed onto by every ethnic group under the sun, except those whose ancestors are from Europe (unless you are a female of European ancestry). If one cannot see the humor in this, then comedy is not your bag. This is what happens when neo-Marxist doctrine gets hold of your educational and legal system; all hell breaks loose. It is hip to be a victim of the “dead white male” culture.




When Obama starts apologizing about, and for, America, it makes me ill. However, this is what the left has wrought. What has made the United States exceptional, is its explicit stated foundational principle, written in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” How did we get here from there?


It is difficult to say how. America has always taken its core principles seriously. When reality did not comport to principle, change was promoted until it did. Slavery was abolished and second class citizenry of women was abolished. Change happened legally first, then more gradually relative to true cultural acceptance. An Anti-American philosophy developed in the 1960s and 1970s, to challenge the traditional unifying concept which is the core principle of this country. The concept of Identity Politics has arisen as one of the main “alternatives” to the Founders’ principles. Sonia Sotomayor obviously was an “early adaptor” of this philosophy. She grew up in lower middle class circumstances and graduated valedictorian from the Catholic High School, Cardinal Spellman High . As one can see from the link, it is a pretty good school. My high school was in the same sports league as Spellman. It always seemed like a good school to me.


Yet, her entire identity as an individual almost seems invested in disadvantage, even inferiority, which government action and identity politics saved her from. She has said she is an “affirmative action baby” who scored worse than her classmates on the SATs at Princeton, due to cultural biases in the tests. Assuming there are so called cultural biases in the test, it seems absurd to think a Cardinal Spellman valedictorian would be a victim of such bias. Further, almost as a coping mechanism, she has made herself believe there is some kind of secret or magical wisdom from primarily identifying herself, not as an American, but as a “wise Latina”. But she did not need and certainly did not deserve special treatment. She was quite accomplished on her own. The American system did not prevent her from being successful. Like millions of other Americans through out our history, she worked hard to achieve success. Yet, for reasons of insecurity or bad faith, or worse, bad reasoning skills, she has needed to trumpet a key part of her success to overcoming institutional and cultural obstacles with the help of government mandated affirmative action policies. It is both sad and tragic that she cannot believe that her achievements were hers, and hers alone; neither impeded by cultural or political bias, nor enhanced by government policy. Wouldn’t a better message by her over the years to have been “work hard and in America you can achieve your goals and aspirations”? It is exasperating to see such convoluted reasoning as she has expressed over the years.


The Senate had an opportunity to really get at these issues, but chose basically not to. At least they forced Sotomayor to recant these opinions. This implies that Americans still believe in one nation, not a nation of separate identities. But what does she really believe? Is she the person who believes, as was implied in her 3 judge panel ruling in the Ricci case, that outcomes alone can be evidence of racial bias in an exam (rejected by the Supreme Court in a 9-0 vote)? Or can she finally be a person who no longer needs to kow tow to racial and ethnic politics, now that she will be on the Supreme Court? I don’t know. And the Republican Senators were too afraid to find out.




I stated earlier in the essay that true ethnic and racial equality is now a virtual reality in America. The hypersensitivity of people like Spike Lee to certain characters in cinema; and of people like Sotomayor, who trumpet ethnic differences as critical components in the culture (and therefore the judicial process), are out of step with much of American experience. At the very least, the emphasis is misplaced and destructive.


I enjoy watching crime based television shows. I hope to write an essay on one or two in the near future. For once, the entertainment industry, whether purposely or not, seems to implicitly refute these tales of ethnic separation and identity politics. At the very least, their message is a normative one of unity among different ethnic groups. Nothing speaks equality, and better, lack of ethnic hypersensitivity, than a crime fighting unit in a modern television series. These shows mix people of clear and obvious different backgrounds. The implied message, however, is not their differences, but their unity of purpose. The characters are primarily defined by what they have in common, rather than how they are different. A classic example is the series “The Closer.”


Based in Los Angeles, the key characters are a White Texan female (Kyra Sedgwick), a Black sergeant who is her “go-to guy” (Corey Reynolds), a Mexican-American detective (Raymond Cruz), an Asian Lieutenant (Michael Chan), and two white detectives (G.W Bailey and Tony Denison). The show is both comic and a traditional “who done it” mystery. The characters work together to solve crimes. No presumption of ethnic based wisdom is pushed. No victim status is accorded any of the characters.


Watching the Sotomayor hearings was like being in a time warp participating in a 70’s seminar on Marxist politics. They were not in tune with current popular culture. Identity politics is now a money and power scam. Sotomayor was questioned on her ethnic statements, but she was permitted to pretend it was clumsy language. The core of her stated philosophy was never really addressed. One of the “elephants in the room” was the large ghost of Miguel Estrada, who might have made the Supreme Court under Bush, had not the Democratic Senate, for the first time in history, through a filibuster, prevented a vote on his nomination to the DC circuit court. Somehow, Chuck Shumer failed to get teary eyed over that failed vote. Estrada made the mistake of not trumpeting his victim status.


Is the Hartford Fire department really that much of a different place than the fictionalized “Priority Homicide” unit in The Closer? But in a Sotomayor world, if the black guy happens to not pass the test, and the white guy does, that may be prima facie evidence of systematic racial discrimination. In our fictionalized world, the Corey Reynolds character was studying for his Lieutenant’s test at some point in the show. I don’t recall him complaining about its “cultural bias”. If he had, I think the rest of the “Priority Homicide” department would laugh out loud. But in the Senate, we get a 60 year old man crying over Cardinal Spellman valedictorians overcoming cultural bias, discrimination, and adversity, against all odds.


Forget the “tragedy” part. It’s all a joke.



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Is Obama scoping her ass too in this picture? At least Cal, T, and Col Fitts can't call him gay.



Maybe not gay, but I think he's checking her backside out to see if her underwear size would fit him.

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Is Obama scoping her ass too in this picture? At least Cal, T, and Col Fitts can't call him gay.



Maybe he wants to slap that ass and ride the wave in. Who knows with obama he likes them lefty judges.


Then again maybe he is turning his nose up wondering what that rotten fish smell was. pfft

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