The “state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters — a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.Ralph Waldo Emerson/The American Scholar.
Senate Republicans will likely confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court Monday, solidifying a conservative 6-3 bent to the court for decades to come.
Judge Barrett’s conservative jurisprudence is understandable.
But her professed ignorance of issues currently roiling our society and her unwillingness to acknowledge well established, democratic norms are alarming.
She refused to say, for example, whether human activities are triggering severe climate changes and whether voter intimidation is a crime.
Asked during her nomination hearing whether presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power, she said in part, “…To the extent this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it.”
Under questioning by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, she exhibited a startling unawareness of racial bias in the justice system.
Judge Barrett, for example, was unfamiliar with a U.S. Sentencing Commission report discussing the “racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system, and for African Americans in particular.”
When Sen. Booker asked her to “share what studies, articles, books, law review articles, or commentary you have read regarding racial disparities present in our criminal justice system,” her response was more startling.
“Well, Sen. Booker,” Judge Barret responded.
“I will say what I have learned about it has mostly been in conversations with people, and at Notre Dame as at many other universities.
“It’s a topic of conversation in classrooms, but it’s not something that I can say, ‘yes, I’ve done research on this and read X, Y and Z.'”
“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” the majority leader said on the Senate floor. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”Mitch McConnell, gloating about confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
It’s surreal Judge Barrett would show such galling disinterest in the state of our democracy, at a moment in which we are consumed by a national reckoning over who we are as Americans.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson called out individuals like her in “The American Scholar.” A speech he gave to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, Aug. 31, 1837.
In that speech, Emerson argued that the “ever new and sublime” doctrine that there is “One Man” needs to be nurtured in the daily work of each member of society.
“Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all,” he said.
“Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his.”
The “One Man” concept, according to Emerson “implies that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers.”
However, he noted, the “state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters — a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.”
In the “distribution of functions,” the “scholar is the delegated intellect,” according to Emerson.
“In the right state, (the scholar) is, Man Thinking,” he said.
“In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men thinking.”
In accepting her nomination from a corrupt and dishonorable president, in allowing Republicans to push her nomination forward in the middle of an election in which 60 million Americans have already cast their ballots, Judge Barrett has shown herself to be the victim of a degenerate age.