Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The "empty robe" vs. the "symbol of hope, faith and character"

Illness has kept me from posting the past couple of days, and I’ll keep this short in hopes of resting up a bit more.

Is anyone else struck by the fact that Samuel Alito was confirmed as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court on the same day that Coretta Scott King died?

One figure – Samuel Alito – has been described as an “empty robe.” In his most recent role as a federal appeals court judge and earlier as a federal lawyer, Alito was one of the few Americans with the power to protect all citizens instead of favoring just a few. Alito’s impulse, though, appears to have almost always been to bless abuses of power even to the point of believing that government has the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body.

Writing at AlterNet, John Nichols notes:

Samuel Alito has established himself, through his record as an appellate court judge and his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the consumate judicial activist. He seeks a place on the Supreme Court in order to advance his vision of an imperial presidency that does not obey the laws of the land or answer to the Congress. Alito is, by his own admission, intellectually and politically at odds with the intents of the founders, and with the Constitutional system of checks and balances that they established. He has gone so far as to advise past presidents on strategies for expanding executive power and, as a judge, he has erred on the side of even the most reckless abuses of executive authority.

As Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor and Constitutional scholar, explained: "In my years as an academic and a litigator, I have rarely seen the equal of Alito's bias in favor of the government. To put it bluntly, when it comes to reviewing government abuse, Samuel Alito is an empty robe."
The other figure in the news today couldn’t be more different. With no official power and only the strength of her convictions and the power of her words, Coretta Scott King did more good in this world than I fear Samuel Alito will ever do. She carried on the work of her husband Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated, and she was never afraid to speak the truth.

The New York Times noted today:

Mrs. King has been seen as an inspirational figure around the world, a dogged advocate for her husband's causes and a woman of enormous spiritual depth who came to personify the ideals Dr. King fought for.

Coretta Scott King also spoke out for fairness for all Americans. She didn’t believe that some citizens were somehow better than others, and she advocated for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

365gay.com reported:

Until she was disabled by a stroke last August King frequently spoke out, often to the anger of some Black pastors, in favor of LGBT civil rights

King called her critics "misinformed" and said that Martin Luther King's message to the world was one of equality and inclusion.

In March 2004, she told a university audience that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and denounced a proposed amendment to the Constitution ban it.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said in a speech at The Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect
traditional marriages."

Ray Daniels, a spokesperson for the National Black Justice Coalition, was right today when he said “Mrs. King was a symbol of hope, of faith, of character and strength."

When the time comes for newspapers write our new Supreme Court justice’s obituary, what will they say? Will they call Samuel Alito a figure of hope or character, or will they report on how our country became a nastier place, a place where an imperial presidency rules?

I have no answer to that question, except to say that I pray I'm wrong about Samuel Alito.

There are only a few comments that seem appropriate to make on the passing of Coretta Scott King. From the depths of my heart: Thank you so much. May you rest in well-deserved peace.

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