Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A chhoto mayor tale...

"Reverse racism!", cries the right, while the left screams, "About time!"

The centrists are left to do the math. Sotomayor has good qualifications. She is a graduate of Princeton and Yale law. She does not have any skeletons in her closet (yet!), which leaves the right splitting hairs on her rulings.
Hispanics used to occupy a sizable portion of some parts of the USA. This can be evidenced by the Spanish-sounding names of many cities and towns. They are a large enough portion of this country to deserve representation in the Supreme Court. Only if the person is qualified of course. So, why is the right not finding any real fault with Sotomayor, even though they are screaming bloody murder.
The right had nominated a person named Clarence Thomas, and he was a redneck in a black camouflage. Incidentally, he has been silent for a long time on the bench, and one wonders if he has another opinion left in him, or if Scalia does the talking for him. In contrast, Sotomayor is brown inside and out, and that seems to incense the right more than anything else.
There is another angle to consider here. In almost all civilized countries equipped with a detailed and functional constitution, the judges are a little above review. Phrases like 'independent judiciary' are not uncommon in the civics curriculum of most countries. These judges cannot change the law. They are allowed to rule on cases based on their interpretation of the laws. An activist judge is one who, based on what he thinks the law should be, rules over cases by stretching the bounds of the existing law (within his discretion) to accommodate his rationale. Chains of such rulings would slowly bring about a change in the law. In this, the Supreme Court wields awesome power.
As the judges are (in a way) above the law, one wonders if they need to represent the people exactly. For example, one would not insist that the US Olympic swim team be a perfect representation of the population. We just want the most qualified people. It seems like an oversimplified analogy, but upon close examination, it has some weight. So, the argument of the left that we need a Latino person on the bench, or that we simply need more women, needs to be swiftly swatted. Obama was always going to tap a minority candidate for this, or a woman. What he did by this move is to shore up some real liberal populist mileage by going for a minority woman. One hopes that no person more qualified for the crime of being a white male. It was politics, but he is a politician, and he has to play the game. You can't blame him for that.
However, for all the screams from the right, I don't see them providing any alternatives. I see no evidence being presented by them of white men who are more qualified but simply passed by. Where is their list of qualified, jilted people who are being the victims of reverse racism?
In the end, the one thing that should be balanced on the Supreme Court is the left-right ratio. With Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, Thomas tilting the bench so emphatically to the right that it now resembles a suspended bar magnet pointing north, it leaves Breyer and Stevens as somewhat moderate, with Ginsburg being the only seemingly liberal one. Sotomayor, one hopes, will help make this bench more horizontal.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pain & resilience

"I like to punish myself L, I like to punish my body and keep pushing its limits." This was said to my uncle by his colleague when they were talking about exercising and trekking and stuff like that.
When he had told me this sentence, I scoffed. I was a firm believer in "No pain...what's the catch?" philosophy. It had its effects. A growing kaboose, reducing stamina, and chronic fatigue, which spoiled my mood so much that it led me to eat more, and the vicious circle was complete and running smooth.
Recently, upon the initiation of a cousin, I grudgingly started jogging. It was bad, at first, but it started feeling good when my endurance improved. Put on a fast song playlist and you are one with the road.
It was then that I actually understood what that lady was talking about. The more you push your body, the more you stand to be surprised by what it can do for you. Just when I felt like I had run too much, and could not take any more, the racy track on my mp3 player would egg me on.
Over the past few weeks, I have been going through some tough times. (Nothing too bad, mujhe baat ka batangad banane ki aadat hai!) I have to admit, there are moments when I feel that nothing can save me from this hell...those moments come especially when the AT&T customer-care lady asks me to call after two hours because the system is updating, even though she knows that they shut down for the day in an hour! Telecom in the US is no comparison to what it is in India. I could call hutch at 3am and be dealt with patiently by the most wonderfully polite technician...but I digress.
Pain teaches us a lot about ourselves. I believe, or rather, have come to believe that our tolerance to pain is released by the body in punctuation. There will be a time when you feel all the pain you can bear, and days later, you feel an affliction which dwarfs the previous one. This is true for physical and mental strife.
Another thing pain teaches me is resilience. Human beings are so damn resilient. They can recover from anything and adapt to anything. That is the very foundation for most of the arranged marriages in India.
Bernard Shaw said, ""The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man."
The pain that taught me resilience, and tolerance also screams that we must learn to draw our own line. At no point are we to tolerate less than excellence. If we are getting less than our fair share of anything, it becomes our responsibility to reach out and grab it by whatever means.
Our personalities, however, scuttle such logic. I, for one, am a little more emotional than most, and while I can be ruthlessly cold at times, when I am affectionate with someone, I tend to give them no half measures. Even if it means tolerating less than your fair share...and that brings more pain.
So, I jog, just to feel good, and while I understand the philosphy of serious athletes, I think I choose to verbalize my feelings about it to the primitive stuff like losing weight, looking better, feeling more energetic...

Strange happiness

I had written this some time ago...it seemed nice then...let's see how it plays out now.

I don't know what has come over me
A strange ephemeral happiness
A feeling of satiation, coupled with
Some anxiety

It shows me more of who I am
Shows me more of who I'm not
Makes me realize my predilections
On this path of self-discovery

Shaken I feel with some turmoil
Upset I am at something in the air
Yet there is a peace I cannot describe
The joy and pain in this diatribe
Is palpable as you can see

It is truly me, as me as I can be
For as long as I live I will not forget
Nor will I wish we never met.