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  • Reverend James Squire

What’s On The Pad?

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

The Supreme Court Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett has brought out the best and the worst in people. You can choose which side you are on. I want to focus on the candidate herself. I have watched some of the deliberations in her confirmation process and listened to some on NPR. She is impressive.

She has been referred to as the finest law student to ever attend Notre Dame Law School and has the distinction of being teacher of the year there as well. Constitutional law is her special area of expertise. I wrote a blog earlier where I indicated that there is no correlation between a person’s intelligence and ethical behavior. Robert Coles, a professor at Harvard, made this case when he discovered one of his brightest students was treating a housekeeper in a terrible way.

She was nominated by President Trump which raises red flags, and she is being confirmed before an election when the Republican leaders showed their true colors as hypocritical in the extreme. It is ironic that she is the very model of the anti-hypocrite, as she is a person of integrity. She lives out EA’s school motto, Esse Quam Videri, to be rather than to seem to be. In common language what you see is what you get.

I am one of those people who believes in Malcolm Gladwell’s assumption in his book, Blink, that I can reach my impressions of her in less than 15 seconds. Researchers call this “thin slicing”.

She has seven children and one husband. One of the children has Down Syndrome and two are black adopted from Haiti. I think that Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Anti-Racist, is brilliant, but I thought his comments that Ms. Barrett was a “colonizer” for adopting black children were inappropriate and unhelpful. I must admit that I, and others, don’t know how she is doing everything that she is doing, but she is!

Sometimes small gestures tell you everything that you need to know about an individual. First, that question from a senator, “What’s on that pad in front of you?” He was leaning over his notebooks and binders spread out before him. She said, “The title of the United States Senate”. It was a pad from the Senate. That’s it. Two things occurred to me. One is a sense of humility. The second was that she is self-confident and didn’t think she would need assistance in answering their questions. As it turns out, she didn’t.

The other thing that I noticed was the respect that she paid to each questioner. No other nominee in the confirmation process including beloved LBG would succumb to a litmus test on some of the most important issues to come before the court. Gamechanger is a word that quickly comes to mind.

When she was asked what she thinks about when she makes a ruling, she indicated that she sees each person affected like one of her children. When I indicated that same attitude in a faculty meeting, it was met with criticism. “You can’t possibly be objective”, was the retort I received. Yet for me it was true. I believe for her it is true. When you relate to people in that way, our better angels kick in so that we can balance objectivity and empathy. She was taught a way to think and consider others in law school as I was taught a way to think and consider others in my university graduate school training.

A commentator from CNN, the bastion of everything liberal, said it best, “If this were a different time, both Republicans and Democrats alike would be voting for her.” Count me in on that proclamation.

I was struck when the camera moved away and showed the whole room, she was alone at the table on national television with half the senators asking difficult questions. What courage!

We have significant issues coming up before the Supreme Court that will shape the future for millions of people. I am not sure how she will vote. It may be in a way that angers me, but I will know that her vote came from a deep place as Frederick Buechner put it, “the place that God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I hope that people know that at the heart of the Roman Catholic Ethic is a view of the world that faces into the headwinds of difficult challenges. She knows, as Rabbi Howard Kushner, said, “Tragedy doesn’t have a ticket into our lives. It has a box seat.” I am convinced that Amy Comey Barrett knows that.

Don’t think for a moment that this leopard has changed his spots. Not that I would, but if President Trump was invited to my home for dinner, I would still insist on counting the silverware before he left.

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