Eddie English, a long-time regular at the Wishing Well, where I tended bar in the late 70s, spoke like a James Joyce novel. He had three or more stories going at once, would slip easily between them as he spoke, gliding from beginning to middle to end at his own rhythm.
I could follow his narrative as long as I didn’t try. The minute I tried to make sense of him, I got lost in a Saragossa Manuscript that started in the middle then moved randomly between stories.
“Eddie,” I asked him once, “have you ever made sense?”
“What’s sense without love, darlin’?” He took a sip of his Manhattan and pierced my bartender veil with his intense blue eyes and his reply. “Nonsense.”
Sense without love is nonsense.
I thought of Eddie’s assessment this past week as Republican senators questioned Sonia Sotomayor.
They worry that she might not be qualified to render justice because she is Latina woman. Her life experience as a Hispanic woman taints her view of the world.
Empathy, they say, will skew her judgment. For example:
Because she is a woman, she might understand that her role in bearing a child is not simply that of incubation.
Because her affirmative action advantages were granted to her because of her potential, rather than by privilege of birth, she might understand that nobility is earned through grace under pressure.
Because she has lived life as a woman and a Latina she might have an authority of experience that questions the authority endowed through power and legacy.
Lindsay Graham wondered, what about her temperament? She is known to ask penetrating questions. He doesn’t like that. Doesn’t like being “bullied” by judges. Doesn’t like not being treated with the kid gloves boys in the old boys’ network treat each other. Perhaps finds it particularly uncomfortable coming from a Hispanic woman who in his experience is the one who cleans the house and tends the children of the privileged.
Some commentators are saying that the Republicans have succeeded in shooting down empathy as a value.
I hope not.
The country cannot endure such nonsense.