Friday, March 23, 2007

Things Are Never As Bad or As Good As They Seem

I have been listening to Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination in the kitchen as of late and that is one of her rules for living. I have also been watching the series on The Supreme Court on PBS. I had felt my brain slowly turning to mush and decided that I would watch something-educational-damn-it. Lucky me, the series was just starting and I love constitutional law. If my life had gone completely differently I would have become a lawyer specializing on constitutional law. It is such a fabulous blend of abstraction and practicality, psychology, semantics, and history.

As I have watched, I am slowly gaining a perspective I have badly needed. In American history, the end often seems nigh, much more so than even now and we have always managed to muddle through. I have been gnashing my teeth over the current construct of the court and waited with baited breath to see which rights might be revoked; which hard won privileges might be lost. I have made assumptions about current Justices and where the country might be headed. As I watch, I have been awed by where assumption would have led me astray. The story of John Marshal Harlan has been quite inspiring. He was the son of prominent slave holders who came to become an ardent defender of civil rights. I imagine that Oliver Wendell Holmes would drive me to distraction, should he be on the current court, but in the court at the time of The New Deal he seems perfectly acceptable. FDR apparently got quite frustrated with the conservative court at the time and basically blackmailed them into allowing him to govern. This is somewhat concerning seeing as Bush had the same sort of support soon after the 9/11 attacks. Fortunately, he didn't use this to manipulate the court, even if other areas were unduly influenced. In short, it has shown example after example of how society continues to make forward progress in a slow, inexorable fashion, measured in decades and centuries rather than the months and years I would wish. There are setbacks, but also corrections. I apparently just need the patience to weather the storms of democracy and the gumption to spur action when I can.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Wow! I wish i'd caught this series...the difference being that it would all be new to me whereas you have a stronger understanding of all that. It seems like as americans we should really understand the supreme court if only so that we can prevent more liberties from being taken away.