The SUPREMES, America, and the “tragic sense”
While “judicial activism” is generally an unfortunate euphemism used by ideologues to mean “rulings I don’t like,” in this case, it has real merit. The people’s elected representatives in Congress approved the Voting Rights Act, then re-approved it on three separate occasions, each with large bipartisan majorities. It’s received the support of several presidents, also elected by the people, from both parties. This morning, five justices effectively declared, “The principles are legally sound, but we don’t like where you’re applying those principles.” Maddow Blog – MSNBC
The joy at the US Supreme Court’s putting their Nihil Obstat on gay marriage seems to have distracted (blotted out) people’s attention from their previous ruling on the Voting Rights Act, which I’m sure was what was intended. In my opinion this ruling is the culmination of a trend which ironically/tragically was put into motion by the Voting Rights Act itself. Just today a correspondent of mine reminded me of something I wrote way back in ’08, which I think still works for me, so I felt I would like to share it with the readers of FDL.
“My religion is to seek for truth in life and for life in truth, even knowing that I shall not find them while I live.” Miguel de Unamuno
The above quote is from one of Spain’s greatest literary and intellectual figures, Miguel de Unamuno. Unamuno is perhaps best known for his book, Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida (The Tragic Sense of Life).
Richard L. Rubens, Ph.D. wrote of Unamuno’s philosophy,
The central, defining characteristic of the tragic sense of life is its insistence on the balance between the striving for rationality on the one hand, and the recognition of the underlying irrationality of existence on the other.
Nothing is more foreign to most Americans than the idea that we struggle in vain and that the struggle itself is the meaning of life. Another great Spanish poet and contemporary of Unamuno’s, Antonio Machado wrote and I’ll make a clumsy attempt to translate,
Caminante son tus huellas
El camino nada más;
Traveler the path is your footprints and nothing more
caminante no hay camino
Traveller, there is no path
se hace camino al andar.
You make the path by walking
Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
When walking you make the path
And when you turn to look back
You see the path that you will never trod again
Caminante, no hay camino
sino estelas sobre el mar.
Traveler, there is no path
Only sparkling reflections on the sea
¿Para que llamar caminos
A los surcos del azar…?
Why call paths,
That which are only the furrows of fortune…?
Todo el que camina anda,
Como Jesús sobre el mar.
Every traveler walks,
Like Jesus on the sea
I put this under a photo of LBJ and MLK because I think that somehow they illustrate both Unamuno and Machado’s philosophy. The tragedy of the American left: how justice defeated justice… how basic decency and democratic values condemned millions of Americans of all colors to poverty and illness.
“The heroes of ancient classical tragedy encounter situations in which, if they firmly decide in favor of the one ethical pathos that alone suits their finished character, they must necessarily come into conflict with the equally justified ethical power that confronts them.”
Making equal citizens of the descendants of slavery: descendants of both master and slave, was the inescapable duty, dharma, of American progressives. This situation made and still makes a mockery of the Declaration of Independence, which was written by a slaveholder and seconded by slaveholders… This injustice could not be allowed to stand
Lyndon Johnson, perhaps the closest thing to a man of the left that has ever sat in the White House, knew that this was his duty and although a southerner carried out that duty unflinchingly.
Master politician that he was, I’m sure he knew what was to follow: Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, that opened the door to Reagan, Bush-I and Bush-II, a movement that strove mightily to undo all that Johnson tried to achieve with his “Great Society”… and largely succeeded in destroying it and gave a political base to all those whose philosophy has deprived generations of Americans of decent public health care and decent public schools.
This contradiction is America’s original sin and its tragedy, its eternal fate.