The other day I stumbled on a Kid Oakland diary titled for a women’s century that I had initially read almost 2 1/2 years ago, but has even more relevance to me today.
Here’s a few highlights.
…I think the feminist values of context, consensus and community will form the crux of how feminism will help move our society from one based, essentially, on war and greed…those twin obsessions of the the militarized state…to one based on sustainability and mutuality, on democratic community and interdependence on all levels. As we can see from around the globe, the current wave of feminism is very much about “fact-based” and “reality-based” pragmatism; the world powers must see that and understand it. This is a project as bold and necessary as any yet undertaken in our short history on this planet, even if, at the end of the day, it won’t look like ‘revolutions’ past.
Men throughout our history have priveleged a kind of rhetoric for change that is essentially full of machismo. Without dismissing the validity and heroism of previous sturggles for change, it is essential that we envision the possibility of a different kind of struggle, a different, and perhaps, more pragmatic way of making progressive change. Motherhood, femininity, and womanhood represent a direct connection to a kind of continuity, a sense of connectedness that for women is simply not abstract. It is those values we see in the worldwide movement for women’s empowerment. Continuity and connectedness are not ‘known traits’ of most previous movements for change, which privilege seismic shifts and dramatic breaks…It is high time that feminism and women’s empowerment help us look at the bigger picture and move our politics into one of making long term change based on a long term vision.
The interesting thing is that this was Kid Oakland’s response to the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. And here we are today with another opening on the court being discussed. Here’s what Obama said about the kind of person he would be looking for to fill that vacancy.
Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice (David) Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as president, so I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.
This isn’t the first time that Obama has addressed what he sees as priorities for a Supreme Court Justice. Here’s what he said in a speech to Planned Parenthood in July 2007.
I also think it’s important to understand that there is nothing wrong in voting against [judicial] nominees who don’t appear to share a broader vision of what the constitution is about. I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society.
And then there’s another vision of the court that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless, because oftentimes they may lose in the democratic back-and-forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process.<…>
You know, Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire. But the issues that come before the court are not sport. They’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart to recogni– the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenaged mom; the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.
As a matter of fact, as has been demonstrated by the folks at Progressive Spirit, Obama has been talking about empathy for a long time now. They have produced a video that documents the history of Obama talking about our “empathy deficit” and why its so important to correct that imbalance.
So as I hear all of the talk and controversy about Obama’s focus on empathy as a primary charactaristic for a Supreme Court nominee, I can’t help but think of the pragmatic change movement Kid Oakland described as the foundation for a “women’s century” based on context, continuity, and connectedness. It’s a perfect example of the slow steady righting of the ship that Obama has been steering all along. But because it happens without the seismic shifts and dramatic breaks, we too often fail to recognize it as a revolution.